Welcome…Home: a look at the new National Youth Project

The Youth Secretariat of the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Program Committee for Youth Ministry (PCYM) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) oversee all National Youth Project (NYP) initiatives. Welcome…Home is a mission born out of a shared vision of generating public awareness of the increasingly high rates of homelessness within our communities today, advocating for equitable and innovative approaches of tackling homelessness, and praying for safe, affordable and adequate housing for all. It is slated to run from 2018 – 2020.

“Homelessness looks different in lots of contexts, and especially with young people these days,” Anglican National Youth Ministries Animator Sheilagh McGlynn says. “Couch surfing is a huge thing, and you don’t think of somebody who has access to somebody else’s couch as being homeless, but that’s precarious housing there. […] We’re really wanting people to look at what does homelessness look like in your context, because we’ve got churches in urban areas. We’ve got churches in rural areas. It looks different everywhere.”

Welcome…Home was announced at the 2018 CLAY gathering in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Youth took part in homeless simulation activities that were aimed at giving them a greater understanding of the challenges that homeless individuals and families face on a daily basis. Youth revisited the 2013 Joint Assembly Declaration, learned about the current statistics pertaining to homelessness, and reflected on biblical parables such as the story of the Good Samaritan.

The youth group also petitioned the government to honor its commitments to address homelessness and access to housing by signing postcards that were mailed to their local MPs and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Clearly both of our churches see this as an issue,” says McGlynn. “This is something we can do together and to raise some awareness with youth around housing and homelessness.”

With Welcome…Home still in its early stages, the Youth Secretariat and PCYM are still building resources, volunteer activities, and an online presence. They plan to have resources available for local communities in time for National Housing Day on Sunday, Nov. 18.

One resource will be on how to support Habitat for Humanity in a local context. Ottawa-area churches, for example, have previously supported Habitat for Humanity by providing lunches for build days.

“They fundraise to get all the money together to buy the supplies, they make the lunches, they bring them to the build site, [and] everybody has lunches,” McGlynn said. “So it’s just different ways you can support the things that are happening in your community.”

Youth participating in Welcome…Home are also encouraged to raise funds for a local cause related to homelessness and housing. They can choose to donate to their local homeless shelter, or to faith-based temporary housing programs such as Out of the Cold.

While both the Anglican Church of Canada and the ELCIC provide a wide range of day-to-day support and services to homeless individuals and families, both churches hope that Welcome…Home will be able to stir up some long-term action from the government. The NYP would like to see a comprehensive and coordinated initiative among all levels of governments and stakeholders, in order to address the underlying causes of homelessness and substandard housing.

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