e-connect asks Commissioners Floyd and Tracey Tidd for their views on Salvation Army social work, the territory’s social endeavours and their experiences within Australia and their native Canada.
Commissioner Floyd Tidd: In tackling the issue of housing and homelessness we must embrace the larger elements of the issue beyond the need for shelter and a roof. In response a new initiative called Causeway was begun by one our homeless shelters in Canada. ‘Causeway’ is a geographic term for something that joins two disparate bodies; the disparate body of a church and the disparate homeless person moving into the neighbourhood. Causeway seeks to find the person from that neighbourhood that goes from the church and meets with and connects with the new arrival in the neighbourhood.
It’s an intention to bridge people who are going from a homeless shelter into a neighbourhood, whether it’s an apartment somewhere or a rooming house – and creating a connection with someone, specifically someone with a Christian faith in that neighbourhood, someone who already lives there.
Dion, the fellow organising this, has been going to corps and other churches, sharing the story and vision and saying, inviting people to meet with this fellow, who is new to their neighbourhood, for a cup of coffee. Just offer to meet him at a coffee shop/café and have a conversation. Just talk about life, and see where it goes. There are no program fees or overheads. It’s about being a friend on an equal playing field…It’s a phenomenal concept.
e-connect: Territorial social programme director Netty Horton has spoken of your passionate understanding of the housing situation. In terms of interacting with government, what experience or wisdom can you bring into the Australian setting?
FT: It’s probably very similar here, in that every day is different and there are regional differences. For us, in Canada, the housing issue functions on three levels: federal (State), provincial (which would be your state governments) and also, in many cases, housing is driven by municipal people and municipalities (equivalent to local government bodies).
In many cases in Canada, the State has a responsibility for housing and funds for housing, but does not administer the funds. It gives them to municipalities. So we are working on three levels.
In many cases, especially with housing, when you get to the housing models the State gets more involved. In terms of shelters it’s more the municipalities. Housing strategies are very much municipality-driven. Our experience in Canada is that there has been a slow, evolving shift in the response to homelessness, but it’s a case of ‘city by city’.
Some cities are moving away from a ‘shelter-based response’ to homelessness; looking to create different models and looking to The Salvation Army and our ability to re-position ourselves as a service provider/partner.
The government relationships force us to continue to re-evaluate what we’re doing and why, and how we’re doing it. We have to ask ourselves, what will we ‘give’ on [concede], what can’t we give on and what won’t we give on. We must always consider our mission and how we can best live out that mission in the changing contexts in which we partner with communities and governments.
In Australia and Canada, it’s a matter of ensuring that we stay in the conversation, to understand but also to ‘shape’ the way forward as we as a society seek to address homelessness in our communities. I have used a phrase since our arrival: ‘We must ensure we follow the mission, not the money.’
Where governments are saying, ‘We’re putting all of our money here or there in programming’, then we need to ask ourselves, ‘Does that resonate with our mission or not?’ If it does, then we step into the partnership. If it doesn’t we need to re-evaluate our role and approach always committed to our mission.
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