Without A Home
Updated: Jul 5
A few years ago, Johnny went out of his way to present a Christmas card to me.
It was a momentous occasion, for sure! Just getting to this place of trust, had become a
game changer - for both of us. Working in the Bloor and Yonge area of Toronto, I met and got to know what I call, real people without homes, rather than to disgracefully typify them as homeless people. Here is a personal story, I'd like to share with you...
Johnny enjoyed afternoons in the park and putting away a few cold ones, with his friend
Donny. Kicking back on a park bench, and enjoying the cool breezes in the shade from the
hot sun, seemed to be one of their shared, favourite past times.
I barely noticed them as I strolled through the park. They were among many others, just
doing their thing. On another day, I'd see the white-bearded man with a cane, standing on a corner with a cup in his hand. Where do I recognize him from, I'd ask myself? Ever so politely, he requested change and politely thanked me, whether I gave or not. In my heart, I wanted to trust this person. I wanted to know that if I gave, that good would come of it. I would come to know this man as Johnny.
The clerks at the local liquor store were used to Johnny coming in. Among the many
robberies, at least Johnny paid for his daily escape from life. Paired with the change which
Donny had collected, this meant a lengthy afternoon drinking in the park together, and
lunches in the food court at the mall, next to the park.
Making these realizations over time, caused me to think about the Good Samaritan.
I wondered if change could occur? The actions had to be deliberate and consistent.
It could not be about me. It had to be about them.
Donny was living in the downtown Toronto parks, ATM’s and parking garages for some time.
He would be on the corner by the time I’d get to work at 7:30 am. Some mornings, he would
have a coffee. Most mornings, he had nothing, but the clothes he had slept in and a tattered cup he had found. By all appearances and over time, Donny was the real deal - Consistently relying on others for his sustenance and without housing.
It was so cold some mornings, I'd offer him a subway token, to keep him warm riding the
transit for the day. Other mornings, I would share my lunch, as he was so hungry, and offer
him a cup of hot coffee or bottle of water.
Johnny began to warm up to me. I was pretty new to this kind of adventure, but with all of
my heart, wanted to see if something tangible could result. After all, in the story of The
Good Samaritan, the Samaritan's take away was that he truly showed someone else
authentic love. It was Jesus’ story. There had to be a practical lesson in it.
The Samaritan’s reward was that someone lived, due to his effort of love displayed, in terms
of practical giving. Also, he went out of his way for someone he did not know, personally.
I wanted to help in a selfless way with the right approach. Trust Jesus with this, I thought.
The days passed and once in a while, I'd run into Johnny. Like with Donny, I'd offer what I
could, in small ways - until he asked specifically for $5.00. I retorted, What? Do you think
I'm an idiot, just giving stuff away? I’m giving because I care about you guys. I’m not rich.
What do you want the money for? Why an exact amount? Can't I just give you what is in
my heart to give to you?
He had crossed the line with me... And all three of us knew it.
I began to avoid them and walk past without acknowledging them.
I felt it myself after a while. I needed time to reassess, “Just what on earth had begun with
these gents from the street.” Here I was, deeply desiring to see results from taking steps of
faith in action, in uncharted territory and realizing that I was largely unqualified to do so.
I had begun affecting the lives of two people I hardly knew… I had to deal with this heart of
mine, and this amateurish determination to help.
During this season, something within Johnny must have registered... A sense of conscience
resurrecting itself perhaps, I don't know. I ran into Johnny along Bloor Street one day. He
stated that he was going to a local church and that he had become the greeter.
Wow, I thought and was excited for him. We began to share about the love of God. He said
that he had found the Lord. ... But wait, I thought, could he be just setting me up?
I'd bump into Johnny once in a while. Each time, he offered me progress updates and a
glimpse into his new life. His tears and humble approach told me that changes had been
occurring in his heart.
Then came the day when he announced that he was moving into his own place! He had
begun to receive a government disability cheque and had acquired his own apartment! He
wanted to be in his new area and discontinue his pattern downtown. I even saw him at the
ATM making withdrawals. Donny on the other hand, simply enjoyed living outdoors. I thank God that he found the resources to a shelter where he could obtain clothing, showers and food, at times of need. There were people there, kindly ready willing and able to provide these necessities for him. Getting a Christmas card from Johnny that year was extremely warm, surreal and wonderful. It added the icing on the cake for me, on a personal level. It brought me closer to God. It caused me to stand up for the disadvantaged more than I had before. I realized that the little I can do, does go a long way.
By taking deliberate steps of action, in the direction of showing love and kindness, positive
results occur. Of course, we see it every day. Thank God for the good people all around us.
However, oftentimes we do good to those we wish to. There is an emotional attachment to
our giving. Random displays of love in action can be interpreted as offensive. Personal
boundaries cannot be violated. I believe that we can work towards better solutions.
In a very busy Metropolis, we push through life, often forgetting about the lives we could
influence, for the better. Most of us are aware of the Good Samaritan story, Jesus spoke of.
Ask yourself, what if it worked? What if you took the time, shared your resources?
What if you took a few bold, deliberate steps - and helped someone you don’t even know, in
their time of need? What if you learned to love selflessly and without passing judgement, the way Jesus did?
By regularly volunteering and offering financial support to outreach groups, you do meet the
needs like those of Johnny and Donny. You also enable life enhancing and family-focused,
food and clothing distribution, personal ministry, and job search programs.
Building a sense of trust with individuals in the community and finding ways for them to
adapt to, and maintain positive changes, are the challenges encountered.
Like others, I too believe that no one should be without housing in a fine, prosperous city
like Toronto. We cannot always determine sudden loss. Thank God that He has inspired
some of His children to respond to the crisis’ of others, in some of the most effective ways
possible, with love. I support Freedom City on a regular basis, knowing that they work towards the care of economically challenged people. Freedom City has love and nurturing as developed core values. These are the values to effectively reach some of our most vulnerable citizens. By loving unconditionally, with hearts of servants, Freedom City is fulfilling the call of God.
Author; Dave Slater, Founder of Chosen Productions, Toronto
Freelance blog writer on behalf of Freedom City, Toronto
Dated: June 5, 2020