Thursday, January 28, 2010


Lately, I have found myself reflecting upon the concept of "home." What does it mean to have a home? What does it mean to be homeless? Which aspects of home are transferable from one place to another and which ones are not? As I work through this I find a number of resources are part of the process. My wife, Maureen, and our three daughters are helping me to think this through, two books have been helpful, and the general plight of the poorly housed or non-housed people of Vancouver’s downtown eastside (DTES) has also been instructive.

About fifteen months ago our entire family experienced a change of home as we sold a house in Calgary. Maureen and I moved to a condominium in Vancouver. Our daughters were, at that time, in three different cities literally around the world and today the five of us are in three different provinces of Canada. I have been reading Brian J. Walsh’s book Beyond Homelessness as well as a novel by Tana French: The Likeness. Interestingly, both books deal with the concept of "longing for a home" and both books make reference to novels written by Barbara Kingsolver who also speaks to the concept of home with the following words.
I’ve spent hundreds of pages, even whole novels, trying to explain what home means to me. Sometimes I think that is the only thing I ever write about. Home is place, geography, and psyche; it’s a matter of survival and safety, a condition of attachment and self-definition. It’s where you learn from your parents and repeat to your children all the stories of what it means to belong to the place and people of your ken.*

Home is about so much more than a roof over your head; and some who have a roof over their head are more homeless than those without a roof. I have met people who live on a particular street corner and bed down under the stars that are quite at home in the DTES for they are part of a community of people. I have also met people who have one or more places to live but are largely disconnected from their dwellings, their neighbours, and even the people with whom they share a roof. Bouma-Prediger and Walsh suggest that these people are also homeless.# There is a great deal more for me to learn on this issue. I am sure I will return to this theme.

*Kingsolver, 2002, 195-197.
#Bouma-Prediger and Walsh, 2008, 1-5, and 28.

Books cited:
Bouma-Prediger, Steven and Walsh, Brian. Beyond Homelessness: Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008.
French, Tana. The Likeness. London: Hodder and Stroughton Ltd., 2008.
Kingsolver, Barbara. Small Wonder. New York: HarperCollins, 2002.


Tim Bits said...

Hey Keith it’s Tim Schmidt from ABC ... how you doing young fella? Lol

I appreciate your comments regarding "home". I’ve had a recent shift in my thinking towards "Home" too.

Now that I’m living on my own, home has changed ... it used to be the pace my parents lived, but I’m now finding that my "dwelling" is home.

Then there are the times I’ve travelled... I spent a month travelling all over Belize once and to this day when I share about the travels around Belize I always call a particular city there home as well... as in, "After we spent time with the Spanish congregation, near orange walk, we had to return home to Placencia Belize for a service that evening."

Keith Shields said...

Clair Hockley said, "I have pondered that myself. And I find a range of thoughts from financially affording a roof over one's head to a sense of belonging. And then there are the feelings that accompany the thoughts: blessed, loved, scared, alone..."

Clair, thanks for the comment. It is a complex concept. The book by Walsh and Bouma-Prediger is excellent in helping to sort out some of the complexity. I will post your comment on my blog so that others might interact with you.

Keith Shields said...

Nicole Kemper said, "My family has talked and thought lots about home these past few years. My brother has lived in a great array of places, my parents sold their house of 23 years, where all our childhood memories are. Cody's family selling the farm, more change.

And yet, home for us is the feeling of belonging... remembering where we have been and where we are going. And the change in physical homes reminds me that nothing on this earth has a lasting stability. I think about C.S. Lewis's The Horse and His Boy. The sense that we are always on a journey to the place in our hearts that we know is home."