Community for the Homeless


I have been playing around with this idea over the past few months in my head.  Then I found this Aviva Community Fund group that helps make ideas happen.  So since there was a countdown I thought I would take some extra time and make out a rough draft to actually put this idea on paper.  You could do me a huge favour and vote for the idea with them, this would help get the word out a bit more.  I would love for this idea to take off anywhere (and I’m sure already has in some quiet cases around the globe), and Sarnia seems like the perfect place for it to take off.  Here is the basic premise which I wrote on the site.

L’Arche communities are fascinating adventures. My idea is inspired by their achievements.

In L’Arche, people who have developmental disabilities and those who come to assist share life and daytime activities together in family-like settings that are integrated into local neighbourhoods. L’Arche is a unique vision of care giving and community building that fosters inclusion, understanding and belonging. In nearly 200 small homes and day settings across Canada, caregivers and volunteers from diverse cultures and backgrounds share deeply committed relationships with people with developmental disabilities. (taken from larche.ca)

L’Arche communities create true homes where there was never any hope for one. How we treat those that are homeless comes from the same systemic issues that brought about the beginning of L’Arche communities. If you walk into a homeless shelter today you will more than likely find a room full of people who have little commitment and have taken little ownership over their lives, the homeless shelter that they find themselves in and their relationships. Homeless shelters are not designed to provide people homes, they are there to provide temporary stay for those in need. This doesn’t take into account those who will have permanent needs.

Community for the Homeless will aim to provide a true home for a select amount of people who are without one. This is not a short-sighted goal in trying to simply get people off their feet and throw them back into the world. The goal would be to mix those who are without homes currently, and those who have come to assist and create a family environment between the two. It would serve as almost a commune but would intentionally include those of of the most marginalized of society. The goal would not be to “fix” them in terms of force-fitting them into societies standards of how one should live. Rather it would be a family environment where people will be challenged and shaped by the community to learn to love someone else.

With the money from Aviva Community Fund I would purchase one of the 5 old churches within a 2 block radius of my house, in the downtown core of Sarnia. These churches are all over 25000 square feet and have the potential to house two or three different communities comfortably. If there was money left over it would go to pay a part time salary for those who would move into these homes. My wife and I would take the risk of being the first person to live alongside of those without homes.

As far as sustainability goes, the hope would either be to get permanent funding or to have people move into the community with part of their contribution being to use their money earned from their outside job for the good of the community.

Thanks for considering this idea. It’s been exciting to speak to some of the pastors in my neighborhood about the possibility of buying up their churches when they close down for this, and the support of the community for such an idea has been very positive.

There is a lot more to work through but I think the underlying concept has some huge potential to not only help the most marginalized of our cities, but also to grow strong communities of people who wouldn’t necessarily ever be in a relationship with each other under normal circumstances.  What do you think?  What am I missing?  Any comments?

3 thoughts on “Community for the Homeless”

  1. I also really love this idea. I know the voting is over now but I would have voted for it if I had known earlier. Matt and I are looking at helping the homeless on a more practical level as well. Matt is looking at starting a charity to donate homemade hats/scarves/blankets/etc. I’ve recently been thinking about a shop where homeless can sell their wares. I think things like art, music and crafts are practical ways homeless can support themselves as well as get a good sense of identity and confidence. Just some other ideas rolling around.

  2. John Guido, L'Arche Ontario

    As the Regional Coordinator for L’Arche Ontario, I applaud your desire to create home and community with indivduals who are homeless in the spirit and even model of L’Arche. However, I must ask you not to use our name! We have worked hard to insure that the name of L’Arche represents our life and work -we cannot risk losing our good name! I would be happy to speak with you to provide support to your project if it is going forward. Sincerely, John Guido

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