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Shelter From the Storm

09/25/2018 06:41:56 PM


A few months ago I was contacted by Rev. Anthony Bailey with an invitation to participate in a clergy Interfaith “Build Day” with Habitat for Humanity. I was delighted to see that the prospective date fell during hol hamo’ed sukkot - the intermediate days of the holiday. Of course I said yes, and have been eagerly, if a little nervously, anticipating the day, knowing that I would be getting outfitted with protective gear and expected to manage a variety of tasks not normally in my wheelhouse.

So many things about the plan, though, are in my wheelhouse, especially working alongside faith leaders from other traditions to provide secure housing. Both in Philadelphia and Baltimore, where I lived for 24 years before returning to Canada, and here in Ottawa, creating or participating in organizations that provide and maintain spaces for folks experiencing housing insecurity has been deeply important to me. As “Housing First” advocates will explain, first providing the shelter and security, and then proceeding with the range of necessary services, is the best and most certain way to ensure success in supporting those experiencing homelessness.

The build day was canceled – not due to the powerful set of tornados that pummeled the Ottawa-Gatineau region, but because of the weather forecasting rain on build day. At the same time, I couldn’t help imaging that the Habitat folks, with their resources, might now be deploying to Mer Bleu in Gatineau, to Dunrobin in the west, or to the Craig Henry and Arlington Woods neighbourhood right here in Ottawa, where the two tornados wreaked massive havoc.

Our ancients planted themselves in temporary shelters at fall harvest time, hoping and praying that the rains would come in due time to provide for another year of nourishment. Later, a huge number of offerings were brought to the temple during the fall pilgrimage holiday. During our Sukkot, those impermanent booths remind us, among other things, about the fragility of shelter and the precariousness of food access. So many of our neighbours need no reminder of this, as they live with it daily. And now, some are experiencing it in shocking, traumatic and highly unanticipated circumstances.

Sometime soon, I’ll hear back from my pal Rev. Bailey, and we’ll regroup – we Indigenous, Muslim, Bahai, Catholic, Protestant and Jewish faith leaders – to help build a home in the east end of Ottawa. And soon, I pray, all who need secure shelter will know its blessing, as citizens from all corners of the region bring their offerings, in times of crisis and all year round.

- Rabbi Liz

Wed, July 17 2019 14 Tammuz 5779