“Not having a secure home means not being able to set roots in a place, become part of a community and flourish in the ways that we are meant to. As churches there are many things that we can do to help prevent people falling into the sort of situations that I found myself in. What will you do to end homelessness?”
– Revd Grace Thomas, Anglican priest with lived experiences of homelessness.
We know that home is more than just bricks and mortar. It means safety, security, and an opportunity to build your life on a stable foundation. That’s why responding to homelessness is so key for churches. Right now, that’s more vital than ever.
During the pandemic, homelessness in the UK has changed dramatically. As lockdown began, thousands of rough sleepers were moved into self-contained accommodation. We discovered that it was possible to practically end rough sleeping overnight, if the political will was there. Evictions were paused, reducing the possibility of a spike in homelessness of all kinds.
As we move forward together, we can’t just return to the way things were before, with families up and down the country facing homelessness. It’s crucial that we respond now.
We need to reimagine how we respond to homelessness. As churches, we need to think especially hard. Whilst night shelters and drop in centres are some of the most common forms of social action churches run, they’re difficult to run right now because of social distancing.
It’s key that this discussion is led by those with lived experiences of homelessness, and that’s why it’s great to see that the Joint Public Issues Team of the Baptists, URC, Methodists and Church of Scotland are inviting them to the centre of their discussions. Over the coming months, they’ll be amplifying their voices, sharing their stories and asking them what they want churches to do to end homelessness. You can find out about their campaign – and see the first few stories – here. To see each story as it comes out, follow the Joint Public Issues Team on social media.
From supported accommodation to social care, campaigning to employment skills, these stories highlight a whole raft of responses churches can take. This means that as many churches as possible can play their part. Many of these responses are already tried and tested and they just need rolling out wider. They also show that churches can prevent people becoming homeless in the first place, alongside reacting to it. This reduces the need for crisis response and, more importantly, means that one less person faces a night without a place to call their own.
In the last few months, we’ve proved that homelessness isn’t inevitable. Now’s the time for us to be brave, to hear God’s call as He asks us to live out His word differently in this new reality. So, what will you do to end homelessness?
This blog has been written by Dan Simpson who is an intern carrying out research to support work being done by both the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Housing, Church and Community and also the Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT).