Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 6, 1999
Parishes called to house homeless
Group urges them to donate Christmas Eve collection to housing society
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
In March, the idea of local churches working together and donating their Christmas Eve collections to affordable housing projects in the inner city was conceived by the Rev. John Henry Weinlick of Gilchrist United Church.
Nine months later, two local organizations gave birth to the idea.
Church representatives gathered at Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples, Dec. 1, to kick off No Room in the Inn, a campaign encouraging local churches to share their Christmas offering with the Edmonton Inner City Housing Society.
The name of the campaign was inspired by the hours leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago, when Mary and Joseph could not find proper lodging in Bethlehem.
"This is emphasizing what we share rather than concentrating on what keeps us apart," Weinlick said. "(Homelessness) is something we all agree is a problem and needs to be fixed."
The campaign, organized by the Quality of Life Commission and the Edmonton and District Council of Churches, is supported by such churches as the Roman Catholic, Ukrainian Catholic, United, Anglican and Mennonite.
"We're not going to solve this problem in one Christmas Eve," Weinlick said. "But we have to start solving it."
Linda Winski of the Edmonton and District Council of Churches added: "It's not just a matter of asking people for money, but it's an opportunity to give awareness to people sitting in our churches that there are people out there who do not have adequate shelter."
Although what many see as a homeless crisis in the inner city, Weinlick said is spread across the city.
"I'm out in the west end. Over there we see it and we don't see it. (Homelessness) is hidden in the west end, but it's there. It's everywhere."
Updated figures on the homeless rate had not been released at the time of the campaign kick-off, but Betty Farrell of the Edmonton Inner City Housing Society suspects the numbers of homeless families reach beyond 1,000.
The society presently provides housing for 250 people and has a year-long waiting list.
"Decent affordable housing is in demand," Farrell said. "In the inner city it costs $300 to $400 a month for a decent mouse-free, cockroach-free house."
She added many single people on social assistance receive only half that amount for rent. "It really doesn't make sense."
Allotting money for affordable housing saves money in the long run, said the Rev. Don Mayne, an event organizer.
"Children who live in poorly-kept homes can't concentrate in school, they don't do well. They get lower paying jobs and end up in the same situation."
Building better homes for low-income families seems like a simple solution, Mayne added, but government officials are not convinced they should be involved in housing issues.
"They think it's up to the individual to find themselves proper (homes)," Mayne said. "But these people need help starting up. Many of them are in low-paying jobs, they just need a hand."
Mayne can't say how much money will be poured into the campaign from the local churches. But whether it be in the hundreds or thousands, the message that a homeless crisis lingers in the city has been put forth.
"People need to know what's going on. They need to know they can do something about it."