This piece was initially published on March 19, 2020. Reposted with permission from https://erinnoxford.wordpress.com.
By Erinn Oxford
Pastor, The Dale Ministries, Toronto
For years we have been using #justanotherdayatthedale, mostly to describe the events that, outside of our context, might be difficult to relate to or sometimes even believe. We are accustomed to being a transient church and organization, one that literally does not have our own walls. As such, we regularly need to get creative about how we do things.
During this new age of COVID-19 we are fortunate to feel comfortable trying new ways of providing food and connection to our community, one that already knows too much social distance because of poverty or addiction or mental health challenges. On Sunday a small number of us gathered in a circle outside the church we usually meet in, more than arms-length apart from one another to sing, pray, and share gratitude and concerns. On Monday we screened people at the door of the drop-in space we use each week, set up a hand washing station in the foyer, and placed chairs the appropriate distance apart in the main area. Food was cooked, safely served by only three people, and consumed outdoors. Today, bagged breakfasts will be given out at the door of the Health Centre we usually meet in for breakfast and art making.
Through the week we have also been asking community members to fill out a survey, one that helps us to know what their biggest needs are right now and how to reach them. Some people want a phone call each day, so we are setting up a schedule for that. Others have provided an address or coordinates (if they are living outside) so that we can deliver food.
Though we know our plans could be subject to change at any time, all of these things mean The Dale can continue to operate. What it doesn’t do is help with a place to go throughout the day, or a bed to sleep in at night. With the closure of many drop-ins, all libraries, and community centres, and now, for instance, any Tim Hortons or McDonalds to sit in, there is nowhere to go if you don’t have a home. In a city where there was already a shortage of shelter beds, multiple Out-of-the-Colds had to shut down early. While the city is beginning to respond with things like an isolation site for up to 50 people and an additional 200-250 beds, it is truly not enough. The strain this puts on people is very real. Many of our friends at The Dale are clearly anxious and scared, while some are downright angry.
In closing, this is a prayer I read just this morning and found encouragement in: “Lord, guide us to act, live, and pray as the times determine. Make our faith grow to accommodate the needs of your people and the fulfillment of your kingdom”. May each of us experience a renewing of hope and peace on this day. Amen.