The Salvation Army runs six shelters in the city of Toronto (Maxwell Meighen Centre, Gateway, Hope Shelter, Florence Booth House, Islington Seniors’ Shelter and Evangeline Residence). Each of these shelters have ‘Housing Specialists’ on staff whose entire job is to find appropriate housing for the residents of the shelter who are looking for their own place to live and then ‘Community Follow-Up Workers’ provide supports once an individual has been housed. Approximately 200 men and women each year are housed from the S.A. shelters in Toronto.
However, due to the volume of people being housed each month and the small number of community workers on staff, the follow-up supports are difficult if not impossible to provide. The numbers are simply too great for our staff to manage. As a result, we often see people that we house eventually lose their housing and come back to us. This is referred to as ‘recidivism’.
The Causeway initiative believes that while there are not enough ‘professionals’ to provide follow-up supports to these individuals, there are more than enough committed Christians in churches all across Toronto that could. We believe that part of the Christian imperative is to befriend people in the margins of society. (Micah 6:8, James 1:27, Matt. 25:31-46) Causeway is providing an avenue for Christians to respond to the gospel, the good news, in very practical and vital ways.
We approach local pastors/congregations, then present the concept to the members of the church and ask for volunteers. We then do training sessions for those volunteers with topics like a biblical/theological understanding of the poor, boundaries, risks, social determinants of health and well being, potential outcomes, and measuring success. When we have trained volunteers, we will match them with people who express interest in having Causeway volunteers walk alongside them after they have been housed.
The housing specialists will ask each person they house if they are interested in having a pair of volunteers from the Causeway initiative visit them after they have moved into their apartments. If they do express an interest, we will invite the trained Causeway volunteers to meet with the community worker and the individual moving into the community. This will be the beginning of the relationship.