Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Lower Mainland - Day One Abbotsford

Today in Abbotsford we saw the reality of a large Lower Mainland municipality outside of Vancouver with a significant homelessness problem.

We shared a bowl of soup at the Salvation Army and visited with staff members. We were especially impressed by four young outreach workers. They are doing their very best to connect with homeless people on the street, to encourage them to access programs and services, and to find at least temporary, emergency shelter. But they all agreed that at the end of the day homeless people need accessible and affordable housing and that's just not available in Abbotsford.

At the Women's Resource Centre we were reminded that support needs to be culturally appropriate. Indo-Canadian women are accustomed to large extended families in a household. Many are more comfortable, therefore, in a basement apartment than in an apartment building.

When we asked about the motivation for the work of the Mennonite Central Committee, we were told that finding accommodation, support and dignity for homeless people was part of the church's commitment to social justice. We agreed with their assessment that while emergency shelters are necessary, they are not a solution because they are not homes.

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