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The Causeway
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By Mike Toth

James 1:27: Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

For a number of years Canada in general and London specifically have embarked on an ambitious campaign to end homelessness. The most common program that communities have implemented is known as Housing First, an interdisciplinary plan to provide those with the highest need with both housing and supports to make sure those clients can retain their housing.

The task these Housing First programs take on is both worthy and daunting. The clients face multiple challenges toward being successfully housed, including drug addiction, mental illness, acute institutionalization, and a lack of safe, affordable, appropriate housing. Recently Christian Life in London profiled Indwell, a private, Christian organization that exists to help solve the lack of proper housing.

One barrier to a client’s success in retaining housing is the lack of relationship. Many in the homeless community have little or no relationship with their families, and so forge non-traditional family relationships with other members of the homeless population. Often when someone who is homeless is housed that housing unit is located far from their familial supports. Loneliness and a lack of relationship becomes a large barrier to retaining housing and serious quality of life issue.

The Causeway is a Christ focused initiative of the Salvation Army in Toronto that seeks to remove this barrier. The program connects members of a local church, housing specialists, and previously homeless individuals who were recently housed in the area.

The program was founded by Dion Oxford. Dion has spent 25 years involved with the homeless in Toronto with the various shelters of the Salvation Army. This quarter century of experience has been at the street level, allowing him to experience the realities of poverty and homelessness and giving him a passion and perspective that is both authoritative and unique.

“After spending the bulk of my adult life working with people who are far below the poverty line, I have concluded that poverty issues in our society have almost nothing to do with money and almost everything to do with our culture’s almost complete lack of understanding of what the word ‘community’ really means. As a result, vulnerable people are being left behind.” (from his website,

The Causeway currently works with seven churches (though they are always looking for more) to provide volunteers for the initiative. The volunteers are given training in various areas, such as the theological basis for helping the poor, understanding homelessness, etc. The training goes a long way toward giving a face and a humanity to a group that often goes anonymous.

The friendship is started by a housing specialist who will ask a client who is about to gain housing if they would like a visit from a couple of Causeway volunteers after they are housed. The time commitment is not huge, but the rewards can be.

Many Christians would like to get involved in changing their world but don’t have an avenue by which they can start. The Causeway initiative is helping to provide that avenue in Toronto, but the need for these types of relationships in London is acute as well. All that is needed is a church that is ready to take this on, and Dion has said he would provide whatever training and support he could. “The purpose is to build unlikely yet mutually beneficial friendships.” You can learn more about The Causeway at You can get in touch with The Causeway at or