Recently, a message of hope was brought to Port Hope, at an evening hosted by Green Wood Coalition, at St. Mark’s Parish Hall. Greg Paul, a founder of the Sanctuary community in Toronto, spoke about building a place where street involved folks can find safety, dignity, joy, family, and an opportunity to give back to society.
From its beginnings as a few musicians chatting with street people, Sanctuary grew to its current community of around 600, with a staff of 18 who are dedicated to building a foundation in those whose lives have been decimated by misfortune. A drop-in for those who live in the street, in shelters or other temporary and precarious arrangements creates a place where folks can gather, share meals, make art, work, and feel at home.
The most powerful and hopeful theme that recurred throughout Greg’s presentation, was that people who have a lot, need people who don’t have a lot, just as much as those who don’t have, need those who do.
When one participant remarked to Greg, “You are a very special person, to do this work," Greg countered that we are all made for this relationship building, connecting with our neighbours, and caring for each other. He relayed how important it is for stakeholders to come and be served by the street involved people, to visit and get to know some of the individuals who are part of the community at the drop-in.
Remarkably, Sanctuary is largely funded by private donation. This allows the organization to operate without the usual slavish dependence on grant formulas that become narrowly driven number goals. When asked “What does success mean to your organization?”, Greg responded that the goals are measured by the stories of individuals who have found some healthy connection to others in their lives, relationships that allow them to receive and express care, and proficiency in areas such as art-making, cooking, organizing and assisting with day-to-day operations.
Green Wood Coalition is striving to build that kind of community here in Port Hope, and the efforts of a group of local people from very different walks of life is growing, as the hope spreads.
-Heather Roy, Port Hope