Volunteer Co-ordinator Kate Werneburg spoke with Jonathan Robart, a Sunday Breakfast Host, and a member of the Permanent Toronto Homeless Memorial Planning Committee. This year, he led the Second Station in the Ecumenical Good Friday Walk for Justice. Jonathan is a Poverty and Tenant Rights lawyer with Legal Aid.
KW: How did you first get involved with Holy Trinity?
JR: I applied to Beth Baskin – I sent a general e-mail about three years ago. I was initially interested in volunteering with the Homeless Memorial, because it relates to the job that I do. My clients tend to be marginalized tenants; they are often being evicted into homelessness. My first volunteer role was ushering with the Christmas Story, and then my partner Alana and I became Sunday Breakfast hosts.
KW: How has your experience of being in the community changed over the years?
JR: I’ve found my time here to be a really humbling experience. The church community has always been warm, inviting, and welcoming. I find the spiritual context of this work to be grounding. I’m not particularly religious, but the context gives me perspective. I enjoy talking with the folks who drop in, and I find its a really great way to give back. For me, it’s about more than offering time or money, it’s about being able to offer folks a safe, warm, welcoming place with food. Most of the people who drop in on Sunday probably didn’t sleep well the night before. I get a huge sense of relief from them when they enter the space.
KW: How have you found being part of the community, but not attending worship? Do you feel integrated at Holy Trinity?
JR: I feel very integrated here. I don’t feel pressure to join worship, but being amidst the worshiping community has given me a lot to think about in terms of spirituality; I’ve picked it up by osmosis. I’ve never felt like an outsider here.
KW: How did you get involved with this year’s Good Friday Walk?
JR: Sherman asked me through my volunteering with the Homeless Memorial committee. They needed someone to speak to the legal dimensions of poverty, and my work touches all parts of poverty. In preparation, I made sure I integrated biblical passages, I did some research and googling – Isaiah has a lot to say about justice! I was trying to bridge my world and the religious experience that many have on the Good Friday Walk. As I was speaking, I could see heads shaking, I could hear gasping; it seemed to me like the content of the Safe Streets Acts was news to some out there. My plan was to integrate, educate, and even agitate a little. For many on the Walk, many of these laws will never affect them directly. So many of our laws only apply to the poor: eviction hearings in absentia, panhandling, and more. I was so humbled to be asked to do this Station, and it was a huge privilege.
Kw: Is there anything else you’d like to say about being volunteering at Holy Trinity?
JR: I cannot stress how welcoming the church has been for us.