New Minas church planning 24-hour homelessness challenge

Jennifer Vardy Little
Published on July 15, 2014

Five Kings County residents will find out just what being homeless is really like this weekend.

For 24 hours, the members of the Orchard Valley United Church congregation will leave their iPhones at home and say goodbye to their warm beds. Instead, their time will be filled with trips to the food bank, panhandling and filling out government forms.

The idea is the brainchild of Annika Sangster, the minister of worship, youth and young families at the New Minas church.

“I’m hoping it will change people’s perspectives on homelessness,” she said. “It’s easier to be homeless than people think. We want to encourage empathy and spark creativity within our congregation to look at what we can do as a church to help.”

The church will be set up like a shelter for the weekend, similar to what other local churches do for Inn From the Cold, a local shelter program available during the cold months. Sangster says she’s hoping that the Orchard Valley congregation will decide to participate in the Inn From the Cold program or help in some other way after this experience.

Participants will begin their 24-hours of homelessness at 6 p.m. on July 18.  That evening, they’ll pay a visit to a local food bank, apply for income assistance for housing and see how easy it is for them to be accepted into a methadone treatment program.

The next day, they’ll be challenged to earn their own money for their lunch by going out and asking people for help. The day will wrap up as they prepare a meal using the food they receive from the food bank.

The group is mostly adults, she said.

“We have five participants – we weren’t aiming for a high number,” she said, adding that the day of homelessness was a test run.

“We want to look at doing it again in the fall, when the need really is. We’ll see how it went and how we could pull it off in our building, and then open it up to the larger community.”

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