Book Review: Out of the Cold

By Citizens for Public Justice

From The Catalyst, Summer 2016

Out of the Cold: A History of Caring
By Michael Swan
Catholic Register Books, 2015

Reviewed by Zachary Grant

Community service in Canada is changing. A new model for assisting the disenfranchised has been built on a foundation of tough, performance-based funding requirements. Organizations look to make the biggest measurable change with the smallest amount of resources possible. And they compete against each other in a race for relevancy.

But what is being lost in this shift? What about generations of folks who saw the social problems in our society as personal and moral challenges? Those who worked to satisfy a restlessness of their faith?

In Out of the Cold, Michael Swan emphasizes the importance of this perspective. Through the history of the Out of the Cold program, he reminds us of the passion that led to the creation of one of Canada’s most important homeless outreach programs.

Yet it served a greater purpose than providing shelter. Each participant who used Out of the Cold and each volunteer and institution that opened their doors on a winter’s night contributed a piece of themselves to the vision of empathetic communities. Communities that didn’t just include, but pushed forward, the most disregarded in our society.

In Swan’s recounting, we see the value of a program that organically and spontaneously serves. One that grows to meet the needs of those who search it out. The people involved in Out of the Cold knew that it did not fit into defined program goals or strict funding requirements. But rather in simple faith they knew that if they listened and served selflessly, good can, and will, spring from those acts.

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