Bridging the gap by intentionally forging unlikely friendships.
Causeway is a Christ-focused initiative of The Salvation Army. It is committed to living out the presence of Jesus Christ by intentionally connecting members of the local church with people who were recently homeless but are beginning a new life in a neighborhood. The purpose is to build unlikely yet mutually beneficial friendships.
The idea for ‘Causeway’ comes out of an ongoing awareness and discontent with the fact that many of the men and women who leave shelters and find housing end up feeling isolated and alone in their new apartments. Ultimately, many lose their housing for one reason or another stemming from that loneliness. They end up back in the shelter system because it’s the closest thing to ‘home’ they know. This is mostly due to the fact that while they live in shelters they have community, but when they move into their own apartments, they are all alone with no friends or family and no idea how to begin finding community in their neighbourhood.
We also know that many committed Christians are regularly asking, ‘How do we get involved?’ Many really want to do more than sit in the pew each Sunday. There is a stirring in people’s souls to do something about injustice and poverty but they really do not know what that can look like while they have jobs and family responsibilities. They want to roll up their sleeves and help, but don’t know where to start.
Causeway addresses both of these realities. In fact, the word 'Causeway' comes from this concept of bridging a gap. A causeway is a person-made bridge between two previously separated and impossible-to-connect bodies. The bridge that the Causeway initiative is trying to create is between the rich and the poor, between people with resources and people who lack them, between the local church and inner city ministries, between people who have community and people who desire it.
Causeway is NOT a social service program. It is not about providing ‘services’ to ‘clients’. It is an initiative that only can work if both parties involved understand that the friendships being created can and will be mutually beneficial.
Causeway believes community is about relationships. We focus our attention on bringing all people in the community into relationship with each other. Our activities are designed to break down the barriers caused by labelling through opportunities for all members to participate in the life of a community.
Causeway views individuals in community as complete people comprised of physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs. Causeway also believes that people are more than the sum of their parts. A person's identity is measured in their strengths and gifts and not by their needs and deficits.
Causeway takes action in building community. We address immediate issues while envisioning true change in communities. We believe that there are local solutions to solvable problems.
Nuts & Bolts
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, then 'Community Follow-Up Workers' provide supports once an individual has been housed. Approximately 200 men and women each year are housed from our shelters across 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 neighbours all across Toronto that could. We believe that part of the Christian imperative is to befriend people on the margins of society. (Micah 6:8, James 1:27, Matt. 25:31-46) Causeway provides 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 host Info & Training Sessions for those interested in volunteering 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 follow-up worker and the individual in their new community. This will be the beginning of the relationship.
Interested in becoming a partner with Causeway? Want to hear more or have us present our vision to your church community? Ready to build some unlikely friendships? Get in touch with us at [email protected] or fill out the form below.
Quarterly Training & Info Sessions are also available for anyone interested in learning more about Causeway, Biblical perspectives on poverty, and how they can affect change in their neighbourhood.