By Heath McCoy
For Douglas Shantz, the University of Calgary’s chair of Christian Thought, addressing the ever-present tragedy of homelessness in the city is a natural extension of the job.
“There is a Christian tradition of caring for the disadvantaged,” says Shantz. “It’s something that ought to go with being a follower of Christ.”
To that end, the religious studies professor has organized the second annual Panel on Homelessness for this year’s Iwaasa Lecture on Urban Theology.
The free event will be held at the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer on Jan. 21 at 7:30 p.m., and will include remarks from prominent speakers such as John Rook, CEO of the Calgary Homeless Foundation, and Bishop Fred Henry, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Calgary.
“There are key people in this city who have made it a goal to end homelessness,” says Shantz. “Often, these conversations are held behind closed doors with high-powered people. Our goal is to bring people into this conversation who maybe haven’t been invited before.”
“This gives Calgarians and the churches a chance to have a seat at the table. It’s an opportunity to hear the voices of the major players, but also to become a voice in the discussion.”
The event will have an interactive component, Shantz says, where audience members have a chance to ask questions.
Also appearing will be author Susan Scott, whose book called "The Beginning of the End" focuses on women’s experience of homelessness.
A formerly homeless person, John Bodman, is set to speak as well. For Shantz, Bodman’s inclusion in the event is essential.
“We can get the people who know the data and the statistics, who know the wealthy people out there who can make things happen — but what about the person who’s gone through this?” says Shantz. “What happened in his life? What were the loopholes or injustices that left him so vulnerable that he experienced this? That is a voice that absolutely needs to be heard.”
He adds: “It would be an injustice to think we can do a panel on homelessness without hearing from somebody who’s been homeless. It’s too patronizing.”
For more information about the Panel on Homelessness please call 403-220-5886.