As the Homelessness Reduction Bill makes its way through Parliament, several Christian and church-based organisations have signed a statement of their commitment to helping homeless people.
The statement, ‘Action and Advocacy: a Christian response to homelessness’, is an attempt to unite both the church and the Government with the homeless charitable sector. It seeks to encourage a joined up response to homelessness at a local and national level.
Signed by charities including Housing Justice, Salvation Army and Depaul, it expresses ‘absolute dismay’ about recent homelessness figures. It acknowledges that no sector can singlehandedly tackle the issues surrounding homelessness, and offers a pledge from the church to serve the needs of those sleeping rough or in temporary accommodation.
Recognising the unique resources of the church, including its high number of volunteers, the statement calls upon the Government to engage with charities and other grassroots organisations in order to make best use of their ‘passion, commitment and perseverance’. It also calls upon churches to remain an independent voice holding local authorities to account.
It calls upon the Government to develop and implement a comprehensive, long-term strategy to end homelessness in England, starting by ensuring that every local authority has a strategy to address homelessness in their area.
All signatories are calling upon local churches to adopt this statement as a sign of grassroots support. To add your local church or organisation’s signature to this statement please email email@example.com
Welcoming the publication of the statement, Housing Justice Chief Executive, Alison Gelder said:
“I hope Government will sit up and take notice of the pledge of the churches. But also that the churches will recognise their calling to be part of the national conversation which now needs to take place.”
The full statement reads:
Action and Advocacy: a Christian response to homelessness
As churches and representatives of Christian homelessness organisations, we acknowledge our absolute dismay at the continued rise in homelessness. In England, numbers in rough sleeper counts have more than doubled since 2010. The 3,569 people most recently recorded represent only ‘the tip of the iceberg’ of the 250,000 who are without access to a proper home, of whom nearly half are children. This is both a personal tragedy for those affected and a political failure which shames our society.
We are encouraged and proud that so many churches and individual Christians are offering practical help to those without an appropriate home. The winter night shelter movement alone involves more than 500 churches and faith community buildings across England and Wales, hosting more than 750 homeless people each night and draws on the service and of more than 12,000 volunteers. We are grateful for their compassion, commitment and perseverance.
We believe that only by working together with all our colleagues in the homelessness sector, Local Authorities, Central Government and with homeless people themselves, can we provide what is truly needed.
It is only through such strong and robust partnership and collaboration that we will end the scourge of homelessness and ensure that no one need sleep on the streets.
As Christians working to end homelessness, united together, we pledge:
to do what we can to serve the needs of homeless people alongside and in collaboration with Local Authorities, Central Government and other partners, and
to be an independent voice holding Local and Central Government accountable for the levels of homelessness. As well as offering practical action, we will advocate for those suffering through housing injustice.
We offer our unique ability to bring help and support to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and the Ministers responsible for housing and homelessness.
We call upon the Government to:
A) Commit to regular meetings and briefings with a group of Christian leaders, convened by the national network Housing Justice, to ensure that the practical contribution of faith communities in tackling homelessness is both recognised and fully realised in national and local homelessness strategies.
B) To develop and implement a comprehensive, long-term national strategy to end homelessness in England
C) To require that every local authority develops a strategy to address homelessness in their area.
The Rt Revd James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester and Chair of Housing Justice
Bishop Dr Joe Aldred, President of Housing Justice and Pentecostal Relations for Churches Together in England
Alison Gelder, Chief Executive of Housing Justice
Miriam Morris, Director of Church Housing Trust
Pastor Victoria Lawrence, President of the Abigail Outreach Ministries
Pastor Pete Cunningham, Founder of Green Pastures
Mr Jon Khurt, Chief Executive of West London Mission
Philip McCarthy, Chief Executive of Caritas Social Action Network
Martin Houghton-Brown, Chief Executive of Depaul UK
Major Howard Russell, Salvation Army
Maureen Meatcher, President, National Board of Catholic Women
Keith Fernett, Caritas Anchor House
Cathy Corcoran, Cardinal Hume Centre
Sr Lynda Dearlove, Woman@theWell
Yogi Sutton, Catholic Association for Racial Justice
Institute of Our Lady of Mercy