A Canadian View: Homelessness – Why Should We Care? What Can We Do?

by | Nov 2, 2023 | Formation, Reflections

I think we are all aware of the increasing number of homeless women, men and children in our communities, whether large cities or smaller rural towns and villages. I could provide many statistics that demonstrate the rising number of homeless people or those who may be a month or two away from being homeless. Many food banks will tell us that they have never been at the level of need they face today. In many locations, donations of food and money simply aren’t matching the need. Housing costs and the rental market are both out of reach for many. Our homeless shelters seldom have enough space to meet the need they face every day. 

We likely all know of neighbours or local politicians who would ask why we should even care about the homeless when many of them are addicts, alcoholics or just simply lazy. I would refer these folks to the Catholic social teaching of the Preferential option for the poor. However even beyond any religion -based obligation to help the homeless, is the negative effect homelessness has on our communities, provinces or states and nations. Homelessness and poverty can add stress to our basically free hospital care in Canada. Homelessness can lead to the last resort of criminal activity, ending in prison terms and resulting in added burdens on our government’s expenses to house and feed the prison population. Homelessness can lead to an increased dependency on drugs and alcohol. Women (and men) who are forced into a life in the complex and dangerous world of human trafficking. 

What can we do as Vincentians and as concerned citizens? The easy answer is to be a Vincentian, to be dedicated to the alleviation of poverty, to look at systemic changes in structures and personal thinking that are so vital and to not be content with our home visitation efforts. Our mission and values tell us what to do. We must seek out the most vulnerable in an effort to listen and learn about their lives and needs. We must look at ways we can give our neighbours in need a voice. We must advocate with them for systemic change. We must be open to changing our own personal thinking while embracing any required systemic change to our internal structures that often tend to keep us acting in isolation from other like-minded organizations without realizing how much more we could do regarding homelessness. 

Yes we should all care about homelessness. 

Yes we can all do more about homelessness. 

About the author:

Jim Paddon lives in London, Ontario, Canada and is a Canadian Vincentian.  He is married to his dear wife Pat and they have six daughters and eleven grandchildren. Jim has been a member of the Society since the 1970’s.

I respectfully acknowledge the traditional, unceded territories of the Indigenous Peoples, including First Nations, Metis and Inuit, on which lands we meet, work and live.