Category Archives: For Heart and Mind

See Inside: Housing First!

We’re all familiar with door-to-door support programs like Meals on Wheels, providing food security to people with mobility challenges.  It turns out a similar approach is working for people coming off the street into housing.  Let me introduce you to Housing First!

Housing First is a philosophy.  It is a philosophy that’s part of Edmonton’s and Alberta’s respective Plans to End Homelessness.  If you want someone to succeed at being housed, you need to give them the tools to remove the barriers they face.  The first step is to provide housing, and then you can address life issues which may have led to homelessness in the first place.

But Housing First is also a program.  It is a network of resources, programs and strategies that has taken root here in Edmonton to provide both housing and necessary supports to people in crisis.  The basic thrust of the program is this:  Identify a person’s needs.  Provide them with appropriate housing.  Then provide support workers to help them keep their housing, settle in, and support them in the work of moving forward.  Since 2009, Homeward Trust, which oversees the Housing First program here in Edmonton has housed and supported 6,000 people.

How a person is housed depends on their needs.  Most in the Housing First program are placed in market rental housing, which could be anywhere in the city.  But as you will see in the chart below, not everyone needs the same level of support or care.  So the program works to provide appropriate home and care tailored to each individual.

HOUSING FIRST 
The range of housing and supports

Rapid Rehousing (RR) Intensive Case Management (ICM) Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)
case management case management clinical intervention case management
  Able to access clinical supports on their own. Need in-home visits.

Chronic mental illness &/or addictions

On-site supports provided around the clock
Housing First team Housing First team Housing First team and visits from professional support like Occupational therapist, LPN, RN, Psychiatry Range of supports depending on population. Can include: food, healthcare, OT, LPN, RN, Recreational programs
Usually in Market Housing Usually in Market Housing Often in Market Housing Supportive Living Facility
What kind of barriers do people generally face?
In addition to experiencing homelessness, people who can be served by a Housing First program are facing a combination of barriers:
  1. Mental Health: ie. major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia
  2. Addictions: ie. alcohol, gambling, drugs
  3. Broken relationships or loss:  ie. Grieving the loss of a child, spouse, or parent or a broken marriage.
  4. Mistakes in their past that have damaged their credit, or rental history, or resulted in a criminal conviction.
  5. Trauma:  ie. from violence or abusive relationships, from living on the street, as veterans of police or military, or intergenerational trauma from residential schools.  Trauma is common to almost everyone coming into Housing First.

What does a Housing First team generally do?
Once a person has been assessed and Housing First is found to be the appropriate intervention, they are provided with a Housing First team.  This team helps them find a place, get settled, and supports them as they move forward. The team will go with them to look at different apartments, and help get everything arranged; be there for moving day; take them to Find (Homeward Trust’s initiative that provides people moving out of homelessness through Housing First with free furnishings) to get set up with initial furniture, start-up food, cleaning supplies, basic tools.
Then depending on what a person needs, members of the team will visit regularly.  It could be as many as two day a week for the first few months.

How does Housing First help people move forward?
From beginning to end, every part of this program is voluntary. It is client-centred with self determination of the client, key.  The moment you walk into someone’s living room and tell them what to do, you create a wall: usually impenetrable.  But if you ask someone what they need to move forward, they are going to know.  The Housing First team works with the person to make a plan and connect with appropriate resources.
The program works to help overcome barriers, but the choices of participants must be honoured.  The team must give someone the dignity of failure: to make their own decisions and to learn from those decisions.

What kind of challenges do people face? 

  1. Negative messages.  As participants are welcomed into the program, they receive a lot of messages from the mainstream: suggesting that they are not deserving of housing because they haven’t worked for it, or judging them for their addictions.
  2. It’s a mountain!  When people first move in, things go really well.  Then the hard work begins of confronting barriers; many of which are very, very difficult.  There can be a lot of stumbling.  “The Housing First worker has to be a guide through the hard work and show the payoff at the end.  But what is amazing is how strong some folks are!  The trauma can be so heavy, but folks learn so much and connect in a finite amount of time.  It is like climbing a mountain, but they do it and it is amazing!” says Renee Iverson
  3. Building a new network of support. When someone is moving from a life that’s entrenched on the streets into the life of a housed person, there’s a change with the way someone views community.  It can be a huge task rebuilding a positive community of support. For example, Welcome Home is a program designed to address this challenge by matching a team of volunteers with a participant to go for walks, share a meal, go bowling, and to be there as a friend.  Click here for more information on how to volunteer https://www.cssalberta.ca/Our-Ministries/Welcome-Home

How does a person apply for Housing First?
Coordinated Access is centralized intake. People can call or visit Homeward Trust’s partnering agencies. There is “no wrong door” approach to what agency they can visit.  Most people who experience homelessness in Edmonton will never require a Housing First intervention. For those that do, centralized intake will be able to route them to the appropriate Housing First teams.

Here is a link to a page on CRIHI’s website with some key contact numbers including access to Housing First:  http://wp.me/P20ewB-o6

Article by Mike Van Boom, based on an interview with Renee Iverson from Homeward Trust

If my kid can do it…

It all started with a request for sidewalk chalk.

My family was walking the few blocks home after church one Sunday afternoon, when my four-year-old daughter asked my wife to have some sidewalk chalk from her purse.  She then proceeded to begin drawing arrows all down the sidewalk.

After a while, we asked her about why she was drawing these arrows, and she said to us, “so people can find our house!”
“Oh!” we said.  And what’s happening at our house?
(Parent’s note: We were planning a nice quiet afternoon as it was our last day with Nana, who was visiting from Ontario)
“We’re having a tea party!” said she.
“Oh really!  And where are we having this tea party?”
“On the sidewalk!”

So, as happens regularly with parents raising young children, our plans for a chilled afternoon with Nana were hijacked by an exciting new idea from the mind and heart of our child.

Here’s what we did:  We brought out a few chairs and a small table and set it up on the sidewalk at the foot of our driveway.  We set out the tea.  We knocked on a few doors to invite people who lived nearby, and for the next two and a half hours we enjoyed a beautiful afternoon chatting with our neighbours.

Our Italian neighbours from around the corner brought out some cookies to share.  The eighty-year-old woman on the corner who had lived in this neighbourhood for over 60 years came out and told us stories; including how she raised her six kids in her little 650 square foot house.  People walking their dogs stopped to visit, and we even had one or two homeless neighbours stop by for a cookie and some tea.  It was a wonderful and beautiful experience.

Today, it is a reminder to me of what is possible with a little heart, imagination and courage.  Poverty takes many forms and is in every community.  Some of that poverty is relational; taking the form of loneliness and isolation.  All of us find ourselves there sometimes.  The answer to much of the poverty we experience is found when we experience real community together.

How does that community start?  With a little hospitality!   And hey, if my kid can do it, so can I!

By Mike Van Boom, from Edmonton’s McCauley Community

A Catholic Reflection: Spiritual Grounding in Bridging Societal Divides

Article first published in the Western Catholic Reporter on September 16, 2013
by BOB MCKEON

Last month I attended an afternoon meeting at the Marian Centre in inner city Edmonton. At the end of the meeting, I was invited to join with the Marian Centre staff for the 5:15 pm Mass at St. Benedict’s Chapel at Edmonton’s City Centre Mall.

The walk of only four blocks was a jarring experience of contrasts.  Coming out of the alley, we passed by Immigration Hall, a newly-renovated, 41-unit housing complex operated by Hope Mission that provides transitional and long-term housing for formerly homeless men and women making important life transitions.  On the next block we passed by the Spady Centre, a community-run street-level detox facility where two peace officers were interrogating a man in the lineup outside of the centre. Just a little bit further, we passed by the main entrance of the EPCOR office tower where crowds of well-dressed people were hurrying out at the end of their workday. A block further, we passed through the lobby of an upscale downtown hotel to gain access to an elevated pedway which led to a side entrance into Edmonton City Centre Mall.  Once in the mall we passed by a jewelry store with beautiful expansive displays. One floor up on the escalator, we entered the sacred space of St. Benedict’s Chapel.

HALF A WORLD AWAY
While most of us know there are homeless people in Edmonton, usually they are at a distance from us. That afternoon, the distance was literally only a couple dozen metres on one hand, and yet half a world away on the other.

Two nights later I was far from the inner city at St. Thomas More Church Hall in Riverbend, attending a community meeting debating a proposed 60-unit supportive housing project for men, women and families making the transition from an earlier experience of homelessness to a new situation of stable, affordable apartments.
Here the visible and societal distance between those with and without homes was narrowing rapidly. The hall was crowded. People spoke with great passion and often with anger. Most who spoke were opposed to the proposed housing project.

Many questions were raised about the building site in Terwillegar Towne, the size of the project, availability of support services and the potential risks posed to the local neighbourhood by the new residents.

FEAR, FRUSTRATION
Underlying public conversations like this is a strong sense of fear, frustration and vulnerability. Some in our Catholic parishes regularly cross this societal divide when they give generously of their time and money and encounter those who are hungry, homeless or poor at the Marian Centre or Inner City Pastoral Ministry in inner city Edmonton or in community or church halls in other parts of the archdiocese.

This is often a spiritually and personally transforming experience for those who give of themselves in this way. However, there is a certain intentionality and clear limits and boundaries in these encounters. There are usually clear time expectations, assigned roles and tasks, and experienced mentors. At the end of the encounter, it is possible to leave and go back to our own homes and communities often a safe distance away.

What is most challenging and often creates fear is when this social divide is crossed unexpectedly without pre-set time and space boundaries. Think of encountering a person begging on the sidewalk or a new service agency or social housing complex on our block.

SPIRITUAL GROUNDING
For Christians, one key reference point is our internal spiritual disposition. In our deepest heart of hearts, is our spiritual grounding: one of love, inclusion, hospitality, solidarity and freedom? Jesus in the Gospel stories provides a perfect model for this. Fear and anger can present obstacles for us to be able to respond from the strength of this spiritual foundation.

As we grow in our discipleship journey following Christ ever more closely, we learn to respond more fully from an internal disposition of love. This does not mean we surrender our responsibility to exercise prudence, wisdom and discernment as we face difficult debates on controversial community projects or when we navigate inner city sidewalks. But it does mean that we start from a spiritual grounding of love, solidarity and welcome, especially to those who are vulnerable and on the margins.

rooted-and-grounded

See Inside: Grand Manor (Excel Society)

Supportive Living Facilities play a crucial role in providing home for people who need the extra help because of age or illness, disability or injury, or even addictions.

Grand Manor is one such facility run by the Excel Society.  They provide home and support for people 25-100 years of age from a variety of needs and backgrounds. The entire facility has 118 individual suites. Three are 1-bedroom apartments, the rest are studio style.

Thirty-two beds are on a secure unit where people are not allowed to leave unless accompanied. Sixteen beds are for PDD (persons with developmental disabilities) – a new program. Edmonton has lots of group homes providing home to PDD tenants, but as people age they need greater support.

Here are the services Grand Manor provides in-house:

  1. 1. On-site support staff: 24-hr LPN care and Health care aide. A Physician is onsite twice per week.  Psychiatrist once per week. Podiatrist once every six weeks. RN, M-F. Supportive living case managers M-F. They have an occupational therapist on-site with a Mental Health specialization who tests a person’s capability, helps them set goals, and perhaps find work).
  2. They have a Harm Reduction Program for people with an uncontrolled habit of alcohol consumption (Managed Alcohol Program). More details below.
  3. They provide Financial counseling to clients who need that assistance; including a program that allows people to live in a cash-free environment, with credit used in the small store on-site.
  4. And of course food! In the older part of the facility, residents from 55 suites use a main dining room. In the newer part of the building, residents meet for lunch on each floor.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. How does a person qualify for a supportive living facility like Grand Manor?

Alberta Health Services oversees assessment and placement. People first contact the Continuing Care Access Hotline: 780.496.1300. From there, people are assessed and are connected with facilities that have the proper resources to address their needs

2. How much does room and board cost?

Room and board costs around $1900. Many clients receive funding from AISH or CPP, but others are funded privately through savings or by family support. In the event someone is unable to afford this kind of help, AISH and CPP are able to provide an increase for clients in Supportive Living.

3. How does the Managed Alcohol Program work?

At Grand Manor, staff work with each resident to develop an individual alcohol management plan that takes into consideration how much the resident wants to drink and what the resident can afford to drink. The goal is to determine what is enough to satisfy the resident while still being safe for that person. In some cases, they help the client find a safe level close to what his/her body is accustomed to and then gradually help them taper down. At Grand Manor, alcohol is purchased by staff using funds clients have provided. They then serve the alcohol to people in their rooms in regular doses, perhaps once every hour.

Who is currently in this program? They have people anywhere from 55 to 90 years old. Many of these have severe alcohol addictions and often have mental health issues. Some are men grieving the loss of a spouse who were not doing well on their own, and began to drink more. Others were people living on the streets.

How is a managed alcohol program helpful? Almost all residents that enter the Harm Reduction Program have come with an uncontrolled habit of alcohol consumption. This causes numerous problems such as incontinence, injuries related to falls, alcohol-related dementia, seizures, poor nutrition, and verbal and physical abuse. Through the harm reduction program, Grand Manor has been able to assist the clients to reduce their alcohol intake to a safer consumption that allows them more control over their lives.

A success story: A woman came into Grand Manor from living on the streets. The hospital sent her to Grand Manor to be part of the Managed Alcohol Program. She had diabetes and high blood pressure. Coming into the program, she expressed her view that she doesn’t really enjoy drinking, but that when you are on the street, ‘It’s what you do.’ She began to participate in the recreational programs and make friends. She only drank for a week, and then stopped. Today, she is no longer on any blood pressure meds; is on minimal oral diabetic medication and doesn’t drink at all.

When haven’t people been successful? The program has not worked for people who want to binge drink, and value that more than a roof over their head. Some choose to go back to living on the streets

4. How does financial counseling work at Grand Manor?

Most clients at Grand Manor have a trustee to help them manage their budget. The trustee could be a family member, or their is a staff person who can play that role if need be. In more difficult cases, a person can sign a third-party agreement to directly allocate their income to cover their room and board at Grand Manor.

To learn more about Grand Manor, visit the excel society’s website: http://www.excelsociety.org/care-options/grand-manor

 

 

Beyond the Big White House

Jacob and Aafje Prins helped more than 800 Dutch newcomers settle in Canada and the hospitality of their big white Beverly house with lilac hedges became famous on both sides of the Atlantic.

They were immigrants themselves who brought their eight children to Edmonton in 1927. Forever grateful to their new country, they worked tirelessly to pay it forward.

Delighted at the prosperity of their new life in Canada, Jacob Prins began encouraging other Dutch to emigrate and, when three families arrived from the Netherlands in 1936, he found farms for them to live and work near Lacombe. When more families followed, he found it necessary to scout other locations and this turned out to be the start of a remarkable career.

Prins often contacted the Canadian National Railway for information on available land parcels and, in the winter of 1937, the railway sent him to Holland to promote emigration to Western Canada, reports a history compiled by Tina Van Ameyde. After World War II, the Christian Reformed Church’s Synodical Committee appointed him as fieldman for Central British Columbia.

The railway even provided Prins with a pass to travel freely in the west and, on one of those trips searching for locations suitable for Dutch farmers, he discovered the Bulkley Valley. It was a valley ideally situated on the railway from Edmonton to Prince Rupert, where settlers would be assured of work in the lumber industry during winter months. Many Dutch families subsequently settled in the communities of Smithers, Terrace, Houston and Telkwa, B.C.

img_0516Aafje died in 1949 and her daughter-in-law Ann Prins stepped in to help with the workload, getting up before daybreak to prepare a meal for hungry travellers on their way to British Columbia. Jacob received no remuneration and, for a long while, paid expenses out of his own pocket.

Until 1960, when at the age of 74 he had to resign on doctor’s orders, Prins travelled once a month to B.C. to check up on “his” people. Through his efforts, more than 800 Dutch families were welcomed to Canada and many settled in the Beverly area.

Known as “dad” to the hundreds he helped, Jacob died at home on April 12, 1963, while reading a book in Aafje’s favourite corner. The funeral service filled First Christian Reformed Church to overflowing as people travelled from all over Alberta and B.C. to pay final respects to a man who lived his life in the service of others.

See the full article at: http://citymuseumedmonton.ca/2015/11/17/the-prins/

 

Riverbend & Terwillegar Talk Housing

On Saturday, October 29 from 1-4pm, CRIHI invited eight neighbourhoods in Riverbend & Terwillegar to a workshop and conversation called ‘Homes4ourNeighbours’ at Riverbend United Church.

There were about 25 people in attendance, including 15 interested neighbours. This event provided good information on affordable housing, shared frontline stories and experiences, and then gave neighbours a safe place to share their worries, concerns and ideas on how neighbours can respond to new proposals and new neighbours.

riverbend-united-churchAlthough this event had a modest turnout, there was a good cross-section of people and opinions engaged, including representatives from two community leagues (the Ridge and Riverbend), members of the Terwillegar Homeowner Association, Brander Gardens ROCKS, faith leaders, and neighbours at large. It was also a respectful conversation, taking place under rules that stated: Everyone has wisdom. We need to hear everyone’s wisdom for the best result. There are no wrong answers. And everyone will both hear and be heard.

In our December issue of the Neighbourly, and in this post CRIHI summarizes three (out of seven total) key points of conversation and what the group heard from each other. The full report is available below and includes summaries of the presentations and several additional points of conversation.  CRIHI thanks our hosts at Riverbend United Church (pictured) for their provision of space and refreshments! 

Full Report:  report-on-affordable-housing-workshop-october-29-2016-in-riverbendterwillegar

Here are three points discussed by the group:

NUMBER ONE: We need quality consultation!

group-conversationsSeveral participants in the group shared their frustration at poorly done consultation. If the developer doesn’t have a good process for engaging the community, and is unable to address reasonable concerns, that will trigger much higher levels of fear, worry and concern in the local community.

The group highlighted two positive examples of consultation done well: The Right at Home Society for its planned development of the Westmount Presbyterian Church site development in North Glenora. They spent one year in dialogue with the existing local community. It was observed that it takes a strong commitment to dialogue as communities do not naturally want to be inclusive of new/different neighbours. The Schizophrenia Society of Alberta was also highlighted as a positive example in the development of a Permanent Supportive Housing project in the Bonnie Doon area.

A healthy conversation with a diverse group of voices was identified as necessary at both planning tables and in consultations. They also advise Developers to give neighbours some choices, and to take their input into account when fine-tuning a project.

NUMBER TWO: This is What a Healthy Neighbourhood Response looks like:

Assuming the development/property management agency has engaged properly with the existing community, such a response should be:

  1. Inclusive of many perspectives, recognizing that not all are in agreement (accepting that some views may be supportive, others that are opposing, and still others that are questioning)
  2. Willing to be part of the process and to dialogue – meaning there is opportunity for all to be listened to and to be heard – to give and take. Requires respect as not everything may go ‘our way,’ but it doesn’t mean we haven’t heard or been heard.
  3. Welcoming of new neighbours, even if a process or development does not unfold as it should. Positive example: The existing community in the Haddow neighbourhood has come to a broad agreement they will accept and welcome the future new residents of the Haddow First Place development, even though the poor consultation process sparked strong resistance to the project.
  4. Connected to a neighbourhood’s story – where the look and feel of a project fits the surroundingneighbourhood so that community culture is maintained and enhanced and positive outcomes and opportunities are perceived and known.” Related idea:   A neighbourhood could benefit from the development of a “charter” of what is community (a community charter of neighborliness).”
  5. Aware of the need across the city, and our community’s responsibility to help in meeting that need. Ie. “Our responsibilities include that with the inner-city expanding, we need to promote Affordable Housing in all areas of the city” (From a Terwillegar resident)

NUMBER THREE: The Need to be Good Neighbours

“Our responsibilities should be to welcome and include our new neighbours, be open-minded without prejudice – we should assume they are good people – there are a lot of ways to get to know folks”bgrocks-drum-lesson

“We need to find ways to get to know our neighbours. An offer of free topsoil has enabled my family to get to know many neighbours whom we had never met.”

“As in the “Welcome Home (Program),” we need to welcome new neighbours to our neighbourhoods.”

“The success of “Brander Gardens Rocks” results from its being based on a reciprocal relationship between the residents of that Community Housing project and the existing residents of the surrounding community. Over the years, attitudes have changed from “us and them” to just “us” and from “we can do it for them” to “we can do it with them.” “Just because a person has a lower income doesn’t mean they don’t aspire to a better life. Many of these people want to give back.”

Existing neighbours can organize community dinners and block parties to welcome newcomers.

 

 

The Good Neighbour

What is a good neighbour? These days, we tend to think of a good neighbour as someone who keeps their yard trim and tidy, their walks cleared, the noise down after ten, and their beer bottles on their side of the fence (not mine!). But is this really what a good neighbour looks like?

neighbourq

People of Faith most always aspire to some form of good neighbour code. Love of God and neighbour are marks of righteousness. How does that love show itself? We often say it involves: hospitality, generosity, compassion, forgiveness and sacrifice, underscored by a commitment to be there for each other.

In my neighbourhood, I am pleased to know many good neighbours. Certainly, it is not all smooth sailing as relationships never are. But on my street, I am happy to know that if my family or I have a crisis, we have at least five different households who would be there for us in a heartbeat. Taking the kids on short notice; bringing food; grieving with us; saying prayers for us; coming to visit us in the hospital. And of course all the little things: borrowing their lawn-mower, or a few eggs. I’ve even had one of my eighty-year-old neighbours bring his snowblower and clean my sidewalk after a heavy snowfall!

Opening my door to my neighbour continues to be a source of incredible treasure. Along the way, my wife and I have had the opportunity to share life with single parents caring for their kids; seniors grappling with the demands of age; with families for whom money is always an issue, and who need help occasionally in getting to appointments or talking to their social worker; and people grieving significant loss or battling mental illness. Our door is open to our neighbours, and in return, their door is open to us. When we are there for them, they are there for us!

In the last few years, I was privileged to be part of one very powerful neighbour story. A family with small kids was going to lose their home only two weeks before one family member was to undergo treatments for a serious cancer diagnosis. In response to this need, our neighbours and my church community together raised around $3000 to get them caught up on their rent, and helped negotiate a renewed lease for another year. It gave them time and space to heal!neighbour6

Recently, several local households celebrated thanksgiving together as many didn’t have family close by. We ate turkey, stuffing, Asian noodle dishes and springrolls, Kenyan flatbread, trifle…yum!   So this neighbouring thing… Give it a go!

By Mike Van Boom, from Edmonton’s McCauley Neighbourhood

 

Come Healing: a Prayer by Leonard Cohen

On Thursday, November 10, fans of this Canadian poet/singer/songwriter grieved the loss of a friend.  This prayer in song speaks into the grief and longing of so many of us.

O gather up the brokenness / And bring it to me now / The fragrance of those promises you never dared to vow / The splinters that you carry / The cross you left behind / Come healing of the body / Come healing of the mindcohen2

And let the heavens hear it / The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit / Come healing of the limb

Behold the gates of mercy / In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving / The cruelty or the grace

O solitude of longing / Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body / Come healing of the mind

O see the darkness yielding / That tore the light apart / Come healing of the reason / Come healing of the heart / O troubled dust concealing / An undivided love / The heart beneath is teaching / To the broken heart above

Let the heavens falter / Let the earth proclaim
Come healing of the altar / Come healing of the name

O longing of the branches / To lift the little bud
O longing of the arteries / To purify the blood

And let the heavens hear it / The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit / Come healing of the limb

O let the heavens hear it / The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit / Come healing of the limb

Hospitality in Islam

A guest  (Muslim or non Muslim) enjoys a special place in Islam.

In Islam all actions performed daily can be raised to the status of worship simply by doing them to seek the pleasure of God. Having a guest is an opportunity to earn God’s pleasure by showing moral excellence in how we treat our guests. Before all else, believers must offer respect, love, peace, and cordiality to each guest. A welcome merely based on food offered, without showing any love, respect, or peace, would not be pleasing.

Prophet Muhammad treated his guests with utmost respect and generosity.  He anticipated their needs offered them the most comfortable room, the choicest food, took interest in their conversation and gave them his full attention.  In Islam hospitality is a right rather than a gift, and the duty to supply it is a duty to God.

There are several examples in the Quran about hospitality. One is about a Prophet’s companion, Abu Talha who welcomed a hungry traveler into his home even though they had very little to eat. He asked his wife to bring whatever they had and gave it to the guest.  While the guest ate his meal, they pretended to eat in the dim candlelight.  The following day Prophet Muhammad gave them the great news that God had revealed a verse about them and their generosity.   islamic-tea

Prophet Mohammed also gave the example of Prophet Abraham, how he treated his guests, which displays an important feature of hospitality. The Qur’an portrays this incident in the following manner:

“Has the story reached you of the honored guests of Abraham? Behold, they entered his presence and said: “Peace!” He said: “Peace!” (and thought: “They seem unusual people.”) Then he turned quickly to his household, brought out a roasted fattened calf, and placed it before them. He said: “Will you not eat?” [Surat adh-Dhariyat: 24-27]

The above paragraph from the Quran is an example of how Prophet Abraham, entertained his visitors. He reciprocated their greeting, despite the fact that they were strangers to him. Furthermore, he quickly and discretely arranged for a meal without asking, if they would care for anything. The meal consisted of the best he could offer. Once the meal was ready, he placed it close to them and refrained from ordering them to eat; instead, subtly invited them to partake in the meal. There are similar stories in the bible on hospitality.

In Islam the guest too has responsibilities.  One of them is to announce their visit in advance whenever possible and not to over stay or ask for anything which might cause hardship or be a burden on the host. Another is to hasten to taste the refreshments offered and to pray for and ask blessings upon the host.

In Islam the extension of hospitality and sharing of meals offer opportunities to embody remembrance of God. Sharing of food among Muslims is a very important feature of their social life.

Submitted by Sofia Yaqub, Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities

 

They are Witches!

The following story of compassion and hospitality was shared with CRIHI by Christina Mhina, from All Saint’s Anglican Parish in Edmonton. 

My grandfather, the late Canon Samuel Stephen Mwinyipembe was a special influence in my life. He was a loving, caring and compassionate person.

I remember when I was a child, about nine years old, there were rumors that neighborhood witchcraft was a problem in the village that I was born and raised.

It was believed that this was a problem in neighboring villages too. These were village communities where the inhabitants largely rely on each other. Accusations of witchcraft were usually due to personal disputes, jealousy, and conflicts between neighbors or family over land or inheritance. In many cases those who were accused of practicing witchcraft were shunned away from their families, and in some cases they were murdered.

My grandfather, as a faith leader felt that he had a moral obligation to support those in need, therefore he invited the suspected witches to come and stay at our home until the tensions in their families were resolved. Our family structure was a big extended clan, so I and my siblings thought we were related to everyone that lived in our house. Now there were three old women, who lived at our home who were quite isolated and who did not take part in any household chores (as they were not allowed to do chores such cooking, cleaning, fetching water for the fear that they might try to poison the family.) Because they had lots of time sitting around, my siblings and I spent a great deal of time interacting, listening to the stories they shared and playing with these old women.

Then one day, at night while everyone else was sleeping, I was awakened by voices of people talking. As I listened carefully I realized the voices of my grandfather and my grandmother arguing. In their argument I heard my grandmother furiously saying “you have to send them away, they are witches, and they will bewitch our grandchildren”. My grandfather responded calmly and with confidence, “there is no certainty that these women are witches, but we know for sure that these are human beings in need. They need our support. They will stay with us. I assure you, our grandchildren will be safe.”

That night, I could not get back to sleep, I kept thinking of the three isolated old women that played with us, and that all this time they had been “witches!” The following day I interacted with them being cautious, but within a few days’ time, I forgot about my grandparents’ arguments. We continued to live with the accused ‘witches’ who seemed to be friendly and harmless to me and my family members.

Since that time I always remember my grandfather’s concern for the sufferings and misfortunes of others which has influenced me in my interactions with others. I try to pass on what I have learned from my grandfather down to my children and those I interact with.

witches2