Cheering on the work underway

A second reflection; As shared by Rabbanit Batya Ivry-Friedman at the Interfaith Work and Pray gathering at City Hall on March 27, 2018.

Right now, we see a lot of good work underway, and much to celebrate.  Of course we have a ways to go.  When the ten year plan to end homelessness came forward nine years ago, it identified a strong need for permanent supportive housing.  Functioning much like seniors assisted living facilities, these places assist people with numerous complex barriers; addictions, trauma, mental health barriers, disabilities, and chronic illnesses.  The plan called for a thousand units.  We have built just over two hundred.  A lack of land and funding continue to be the major barriers holding up the work.

We see fear and frustration in local communities.  Racism and classism, a fear of change and a fear of the future are undercurrents that spark higher levels of tension in community discussions.  And of course when consultation is not done well there is a lot of frustration. But that’s the bad news, the good news is that we as a city have a short string of successes behind us recently; with healthy community consultation showing itself to be a key factor! There are some signs of warmth and a willingness to discuss the building of new affordable and supportive housing in communities around the city.  Small fires burning; speaking a message of hospitality and inclusion that can be nurtured and grown.

As people of faith, we can help nurture those small fires; by supporting a healthy and respectful conversation in the local community.  We are even receiving calls from developers looking for some wisdom on how to do this well. The Interfaith Housing Initiative has the opportunity before us now to lead in the possible development of community consultation resources with partners like Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues and property developers.  Gathering a diverse group of people with different ideas together to create something beautiful together can be challenging, however with the potential to do something meaningful and powerful, there is hope, and of course prayers can only help make it more successful.

Another significant challenge is finding land to build affordable or supportive housing.  It’s going to take many compassionate and discerning eyes looking in our neighbourhoods to see the opportunities.  Thankfully, we have a growing number of faith communities coming forward to explore opportunities with their land; to do something like what Westmount Presbyterian did!  It’s an exciting new energy, but also hard work ahead.  How can we support more of our faith communities in having that conversation, and then supporting them to get there?

We are encouraged to see some of the City’s current policy work.  It’s even in their title; discussing the work of creating inclusive, diverse and complete communities.  And City Council is actively backing the creation of better affordable and supportive housing options in neighbourhoods all over the city; recognizing it is not good practice to heavily concentrate services and supports in a few neighbourhoods.  As city efforts and policies gel, we need a lot of wisdom; balancing a defense of the vulnerable with supporting a sensible and constructive path to healthy integration in the local community.

We have reason to cheer on the work taking place; but recognize an urgent need to pray as well.  That’s why we are gathered here today. To ensure that the necessary relationships are forged; that good work is done; that solid commitments are made; that wisdom prevails over fear and suspicion; and that meaningful real-life solutions will take form with as much haste as can be mustered.

Following this reflection, prayers were offered for wisdom to guide current efforts

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