Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
February 2, 2009
Calgary Catholics tackle homelessness personally
All roads Lead Home urges parishioners to adopt the homeless
PHOTO | VIRGINIA BATTISTE
Bishop Fred Henry, left, Marina Giacomin, re-housing vice-president of the Calgary Homeless Foundation, and Sharon Evans, program director of All Roads Lead Home.
BY VIRGINIA BATTISTE
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
Calgary – Calgary Catholics are being challenged to adopt homeless families in much the same way an earlier generation was urged to sponsor refugees.
The All Roads Lead Home program was launched at a diocesan workshop on homelessness at St. Cecilia Church Jan. 24.
Program director, Sharon Evans, with the lead agency Neighbourlink Calgary, says the goal is to have parishes, individuals or groups “adopt” a family and provide some level of support or involvement.
SO MANY WAYS TO HELP
That level will be based on both what is comfortable for the volunteers and according to the needs of the family.
Evans said volunteer involvement can include financial assistance with rent subsidies and damage deposits, furnishing a home for a family, providing moving assistance for a family to leave a shelter, contributing to a child’s Registered Education Savings plan, or other methods.
Meeting a variety of social needs and providing friendship are equally important for the families, she said.
“It is important to wrap them up with all the resources they might need to become settled in adequate housing, so a house can become a home.”
The 120 participants at the workshop from some two dozen parishes in the Calgary area were told the purpose of All Roads Lead Home is similar to the sponsorship program for Vietnamese refugees that parishes participated in during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
If a parish is too small to support a family on its own, it can partner with neighbouring parishes, Evans said.
She emphasized that anyone can contribute. Involvement can be on a onetime basis, or an ongoing one, ranging from no contact with the family to close involvement and long-term friendship.
NeighbourLink provides comprehensive training and support for the individual volunteers and groups and links them to the professional service providers who may be involved with the family.
Evans said volunteers do not serve as social workers to the families. They represent the neighbourhood as mentors and friends.
Marina Giacomin, vice-president of re-housing with the Calgary Homeless Foundation, said two faith communities were involved in mentoring families who were re-housed in a series of apartments that a local landlord made available to the foundation.
Last spring, at the end of that program, the volunteers came to the foundation and said they wanted to continue the project with other homeless families, and extend it to include all the faith communities in Calgary.
The Jan. 24 workshop, sponsored by the Diocesan Affordable Housing Committee, a committee of the Diocesan Social Justice Commission, encouraged participants to recommend that each parish establish its own committee on homelessness.
Bishop Frederick Henry, one of the panel presenters and a member of the board of directors of the Calgary Homeless Foundation, said overcoming homelessness has already been identified as a diocesan priority. He is actively encouraging parishes to become involved and help to end homelessness in Calgary.
More information on All Roads Lead Home program is at www.neighbourlinkcalgary.ca or Calgary Homeless Foundation www.calgaryhomeless.com.