by: Kathleen Smith
People who are homeless in Canada are 127 times more likely to die an early or preventable death than the average Canadian. Their average life expectancy is 39 years.
In a community like Sanctuary, death is not some spectral, abstract fear. It lives with us in grizzly flesh and bone. Many of my friends at Sanctuary have griefs and losses so manifold that it is a miracle they’ve survived them. Friends, parents, spouses, partners, children.
The grief in our community makes me angry because almost all of it is easily preventable. There is enough wealth in our city (and our country) to ensure that everyone has a safe place to spend the night; that everyone has access to healthy food, recreation, and healthcare; and that all families and communities have access to the resources they need to be stable and nurturing environments for children. What we lack is justice in our public policy and our social structures- a justice that prioritizes compassion over wealth.
I am angry because injustice is a choice. But that also means that we can choose differently.
Sanctuary is a community where we choose differently.
At Sanctuary, we listen to and elevate the voices of people who society ignores. We seek out conversations and relationships with people who are panhandling, we hand paintbrushes to street artists, and we invite our community to take the lead on important decisions relating to Sanctuary’s future and programs.
At Sanctuary, everyone belongs. We know that sometimes the most difficult people are the people who have been most deprived of the love, relationships, and material necessities we all need to develop and survive. At Sanctuary, we do what we can to step into that gap, offering caring, life-giving friendship to folks with no network of relationships to support them.
In so doing, we strive to choose justice over injustice, and compassion over indifference. To the 800-1000 people who come into contact with us every year, and particularly the 200-400 people who are part of our core groups of “regulars,” this choice says: you are valuable, you are worthy of consideration and respect. To the broader world, it says: there is a better way. We do not have to accept the isolation, oppression, abuse, and suffering of people who live in poverty in our communities. We can make strides towards something better.
At Sanctuary, we are making strides for justice.