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CHRISTIAN LIFE IN LONDON | NOVEMBER 2022 EDITION
The Homeless in London Prayer Prompt October 2022
CURRENT COMMUNITY STORIES
NOVEMBER PRAYER PROMPT
Remember...
Christian Population in Canada Based on the Latest Census Canada Data
Basic Needs - A Resource For Those Needing Assistance
A Change At The Top at YFC London Thank You James Coolidge and Welcome Joel Timmerman
‘The Chosen’ - Debut For Season 3 Is Set Internationally In 2000+ Cinemas
Persian Protests
“Take Me For A Spin”
The Top 30 Christian Music Albums – November 2022
“Conflicts are Hard to Handle” Three Strategies for Handling Conflict
BookMark - Crossfire (Extreme Measures #2) (BOOK REVIEW)
Reel Review - Spirited (Adapted from: A Christmas Carol) (MOVIE REVIEW)
It’s Time for Christmas Carols...
‘The First Nowell’ Country and Gospel Singer Josh Turner (VIDEO)
The Christmas Pageant (HUMOUR)

Published October 2022


Provided by CCNL (Christian Churches Network of London)

In October we are inundated with images of “Hallmark moments” of abundance, family gatherings, thanksgiving dinners and beautiful fall landscapes. Our focus this month will instead be on our neighbours in London Ontario who are experiencing poverty. Those who are living on the street or in shelters, perhaps evicted from apartments, leaving broken relationships, suffering from job loss, unable to make ends meet, in desperate situations. Holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter can amplify the pain of longing for what is often missing most when life is hard and hope is elusive - connections, family, meaningful relationships - home.

This poignant image above of the “Homeless Jesus” is a sculpture by Canadian artist Tim Schmalz was inspired by a random glance on a busy Toronto street. He said "I was driving downtown in the biggest city in Canada, I turned and saw a human form shrouded in blankets in the middle of the day. It just shocked me as in that initial moment, my experience was of seeing Jesus there." It is an unsettling but evocative piece of art.

We invite you to join with us in prayer this month as if each person in need was indeed Jesus himself. Ponder again those compelling words we know so well in Matthew 25 (MSG): “I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me. Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.”

Our format will be a bit different this month. We asked for help to inform our prayers from those who work on the front lines from the Salvation Army, Sanctuary, Mission Services…and more. We thank all of them for the sacred work they do, for their wisdom and insights, and their commitment to advocate on behalf of “least of these”, people who Jesus values highly. May we be open to more clearly understanding the details of local needs while listening to the Spirit’s voice shaping our responses in prayer.

1. There are over 2,000 known people registered in London as homeless. “Registered by name with the City of London” means they have signed explicit consent and interacted in the last 60 days in the central intake system for shelter. Best guesses are however that the actual number is at least 400-600 more who are not in the system – those who couch-surfing, those at imminent risk of homelessness, those sleeping rough outdoors in encampments or hidden where they are not seen. The number is growing rapidly, not lessening as housing is simply not available. Some don’t wish to be or are not able to cope in shelter with others for a variety of reasons. The pandemic accelerated this crisis that already existed.

  • OUR PRAYER: Father God, help us to notice these people. To see them as neighbours, as people loved by you. They stand at street corners or hang around downtown, and we look away avoiding eye contact. We hear news of the challenges but may feel it doesn’t impact us. We ask forgiveness for our hardened hearts, dull ears, self-centered spirits. Holy Spirit, open our eyes.

    2. Emergency shelter with beds, meals and support workers around the city are for those who find themselves without a home for whatever reason – but the funding for them is often uncertain and/or often changing in terms of what, if, when, who, how many and how much will be partially government funded. At many times, they are full to overflowing beyond capacity. Extra people may need to be placed in motels temporarily. The City of London distributes funding from the provincial government on a per diem rate. As much as is known right now, there are not monies nr plans designated for additional winter shelter funding this year by the City Hall - the city is hoping churches will fill that gap with spaces, volunteers and financial support. The various charitable organizations try to supplement the growing additional needs of funding for trained staffing, designated buildings, food, operating costs etc. through the generosity of community people like you and me, churches, businesses, grants, legacy gifts, foundations, etc.

  • Jon DeActis, the ED at the Salvation Army Centre of Hope shared an interesting insight… “The real crisis with shelters is actually the lack of housing”. Shelters are not a solution, but rather are a much-needed step in the gap along the way. A place to stabilize when in crisis, to figure out what may be next, to feel safer, to find informed supports on the difficult process of finding housing. We all deserve a place to call home. Rents have increased exponentially. A recent article in the London Free Press (Sept 17, 2022) noted “Landlords in London last month were asking $1,783 on average — a record — for one-bedroom units, 36.9 per cent more than a year ago.” Scarcity is especially true in the $900-$1,000 end of the market. Low incomes have not increased. The building industry has not been able to keep pace with the growing need due to the pandemic, supply chain complexities, skilled tradespeople shortage, increased demand and inflation.
  • Ontario Works (OW) for those who cannot find work currently pays just $390 monthly for housing costs. Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) for those who are currently unemployable pays $490 monthly for housing costs. Minimum wage is $15.50 per hour for those who can work, but often not full-time and are still below the poverty line. Add to that the increased costs of daily living for utilities, food, personal items. Impossible, even before the winter months. Affordable housing is often not affordable at all for too many.
  • OUR PRAYER: God help us to realize that these are people just like us but deprived of a place to call home. No bed of their own. No safe constant space to welcome or protect them. No money to afford even the very basics of housing and daily life. We pray that our governments at every level invest more into truly affordable housing and added economic supports. We pray for the newly elected city officials in November to see this as a priority by using the $2.9 million from the London Community Recovery Network Pandemic Relief Fund towards addressing critical needs of the homeless population and follow through on commitments made in response to the recent ‘Forgotten 519’ protest. We pray for political leaders at all levels to view this not just as a financial decision but an ethical, moral decision as to the value of all people. We pray that minimum wage be increased to $16.50 or more. And we pray for ourselves that we too as individuals will also support aid organizations with donations and volunteer time, energy, and passion in some way.

    3. Food prices are escalating rapidly. Food insecurity is growing especially impacting children and youth. Right now, the London Food Bank helps on average more than 3,500 families or about 8,500 individuals each month. These numbers do not include people they help through food also provide to other programs and agencies by the Food Bank. Many churches and ministries offer free meal programs throughout the week to their neighbours through the generous donations of their facilities, food, time, and volunteer workers. It has been especially difficult throughout the length of the pandemic - many have pivoted to take-out meals or paper bag breakfasts or lunches to provide food. Some meal programs have not reopened as there are still COVID concerns and aging volunteers. But both the givers and the receivers in these programs often comment that they deeply miss the regular community connections with one another – familiar faces, stories to be shared, sense of belonging when eating together. Providing meals is a huge $$ challenge for all these ministries – Darryl Reckman from Sanctuary London commented recently that their budget for their Wednesday night community meal for 200-250 used to be $350 but that has jumped recently to over $700- 800 and they are still running out of food as more and more come – new faces weekly.

  • OUR PRAYER: Jesus, you shared meals around the table which were a vital part of your ministry. Rich, poor, young and old – we all need to eat to survive and to thrive. The Bible is full of expectation for generous provision from us for those who are hungry at every age. Government funding cannot provide it all. No one should have to beg on the street for food here. We pray for the Salvation Army, Ark Aid, Mission Services of London, My Sisters Place, Sanctuary, Atlohsa or Lifespin, your local church, parish, mosque or synagogue, London Business Cares Food drives or Community Resource Centers… and many more. God, provoke us to regularly give to any of their food programs as if it were you Jesus that was hungry. It all makes a difference!

    4. We carry opinions, misconceptions, experiences and expectations about those who find themselves without a home and are experiencing poverty. Their stories can surprise us, disturb us, humble us. We may too quickly assume that all have mental health problems, addictions, laziness, lower intelligence… and somehow need to be avoided. We seem to prefer to hear homeless success stories – “From the street to the board room” – sadly, those are too few and far-between, giving false hope and sense of shame of failure to many who are truly survivors in rough times. Success for them may instead be reconnecting with a family member. Staying sober for a month. Going back to school. Learning to love oneself better. Getting through a day. The reasons for why anyone might find themselves homeless are often complex – generational and systemic poverty, death of parents, physical health challenges, injustice, mental health, racism, abuse, lost education or job opportunities, simply life circumstances, poor decisions, good decisions gone astray, or things way beyond their control… or combination of all of the above. Let’s remember we know people who are well off who also experience addictions, mental health problems, laziness, health challenges etc… but for their family, a circle of support or a chance given to them, their life took a different path.

  • OUR PRAYER: Heavenly Father, let us see all as fellow human beings created in your image as you do, worthy of dignity, respect and love, regardless of economic status or academic achievements, good looks or winsome personality. We seem to live in a shallow superficial age. James 2 reminds us that this has always been a problem for us as Christians: “My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, “Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!” and either ignore the street person or say, “Better sit here in the back row,” haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted? Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens!” May we examine our hearts and correct our actions according to your word and honor these fellow citizens in every way. Pour out God your grace on these in need.

    5. There is some encouraging news recently in our community that we should recognize. London is blessed with collective wisdom of visionary people, good planners, and community support working together to tackle both affordable supportive housing and helpful solutions for the future, like the following recent announcements to give thanks for:

  • Vision SOHO Alliance just closed on the Old Victoria Hospital land. Over the next three years, Indwell, along with 5 other non-profit housing developers will create 684 units in seven buildings. Indwell’s Embassy Commons in Old East London is also set to open in November to serve tenants - people experiencing homelessness referred by the city and other agencies.
  • Mission Services of London is ready to expand its services assisting men struggling with addictions, thanks to a two year funding commitment from the ‘Ontario Government Addiction Recovery Fund’. This will help provide additional treatment beds, doubling its capacity from 10 to 20 beds. Quintin Warner House will (QWH) move its four-month treatment program to a new location on York St., part of the Mens’ Mission. QWH’s previous building will become a third Annex house in MSL’s yearlong aftercare optional process for program graduates to continue to live in while still accessing support during the recovery journey including help finding employment and further education.
  • The Wright Dental clinic not-for-profit, community-based dental clinicmanaged by the London Community Dental Alliance opened in September at the Glen Cairn Resource Centre. It offers free dental care to Londoners facing barriers due to income or housing insecurity.
  • OUR PRAYER: We are so grateful God for dedicated determined people like these in our city who persist in looking for practical solutions to offer care, dignity, support and direction for those in need. Bless their work and their plans. Much more is needed. At times there are roadblocks that need to be worked through as a caring community. Make us people of perseverance God as we learn together. Please raise up more and more people and programs to imagine, to give of their expertise, to help now. We pray that you will spur some in our community to also create much needed programs for women with addictions.

    6. More poverty reduction frontline workers are desperately needed. Every workplace is struggling with staffing. Life is getting harder for workers on the streets with increased threats of violence, the trauma of losing people to drug overdoses, the depth of care, patience and wisdom that is required daily with sometimes volatile situations. More primary care help is needed – the Emergency Rooms cannot handle the volume and vulnerable people often cannot cope in the lengthy waits – but shelters are not equipped to handle all their multiple physical and mental health needs. COVID too has had a drastic impact on this population as well as the people who care for them – impossible to social distance. All are exhausted, worn-out.

  • OUR PRAYER: We pray for protection, physically and emotionally for clients and workers. We pray for hope to show up and renewed energy and encouragement in all who connect with vulnerable individuals. Help us offer listening ears. Help us God to look people directly in the eyes or call them by name - it can make a difference to reassure people that they are not invisible. Each person who works with those in need can tell you heart-moving, gut-wrenching stories of the many times their ‘friends on the street’ have ministered deeply back to them personally, teaching them lessons of tender care and compassion when least expected. It is humbling Jesus when you show up as a homeless person! Forgive our pride that keeps us from recognizing you.

    We build compassion muscles in much the same way we build our physical muscles. It is not feasible lamentably to pay someone else to exercise for us. Nor can we just talk passionately about it. We need to act kindly, carefully, sacrificially, and often… while seeking to do no harm to gentle bruised souls and bringing practical “good news” of much needed hope. This is the life-giving gospel at work in our community in very hard times. Reread the Good Samaritan story and put yourself in this story on a street in London. How would you respond to the question posed by Jesus to his followers about “who is acting as a neighbor”?

    Shane Claiborne, a well-known activist and author spoke at the Citywide prayer breakfast a few years ago said this: “When we pray to God asking, “Why don’t you do something about ______?”, we hear a gentle whisper respond, “I did do something. I made you.” Prayer is vitally important. Just as important is becoming the answer to our prayers.” A challenging thought….as we pray together for our neighbours in need in our city this month, let’s consider how God will spur each of us on to greater love and more good deeds. Care. Pray. Learn. Engage. Give. Listen. See. Act.