Homeless Sunday call
for a 'comprehensive long-term strategy' re homelessness
Adam May writes:
Thousands of Christian communities across the UK today (Sunday 22nd January 2017) will be marking Homeless Sunday. This annual event in the churches calendar enables Christians to connect, challenge and commit to engaging with those who are homeless in their own local community.
As part of this year's campaign, Action and Advocacy: a Christian response to homelessness is being published this morning. The statement, coordinated by Housing Justice and is signed by the Bishop of Rochester and National charities, comes as an attempt to unite the Christian homeless sector voice to both the church and to Government. The aim of Action and Advocacy: a Christian response to homelessness is commit the church to better working with Government at national and local level to see a joined up response to homelessness.
The statement, whilst expressing it's 'absolute dismay' about homelessness at the local level, contains an acknowledgement that no one sector alone will be able to see homeless figures fall and offers a pledge from the churches to serve the needs of those sleeping rough or in temporary accommodation. The statement also calls upon the churches to remain an independent voice holding local Government authorities to account in the treatment of those who are facing housing injustice. Recognising the unique position of the churches, mainly through its high level of volunteers, the statement calls upon the Government to engage in regular meetings with Housing Justice and other partners to see how a more proactive relationship can begin to emerge.
It calls upon the Government to develop and implement a comprehensive, long-term national strategy to end homelessness in England, starting by ensuring that every local authority has a strategy to address homelessness in their own locality.Housing Justice, in partnership with the other signatories is calling upon local churches to adopt this statement as a sign of grass-roots support. Churches wishing to sign up can do so on the Housing Justice website; www.housingjustice.org.uk
Welcoming the publication of the statement, Housing Justice Chief Executive, Alison Gelder said:"Born out of a symposium style event in Parliament in the Autumn, Action and Advocacy: a Christian response to homelessness is a call for the churches and the Government to seek strong relationships in the days, weeks and months ahead. As the statement acknowledges the state of homelessness in England and Wales is an absolute tragedy and it is now time for a more cooperative strategy to developed, with input from and in active partnership with, the churches. Publishing this statement this morning as churches mark Homeless Sunday and also in the same week in which, we hope, the Homelessness Reduction Bill will be debated for the third time, shows a strong commitment from leading Christian homelessness organisations intentionally to unite to take part in addressing the challenges before us. This is timely statement and 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."
Notes to Editors
Housing Justice is the National Christian voice for housing and homelessness.
Signatories of the statement are available for interview with prior arrangement.
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
All media enquiries should be directed to:
Adam May - Housing Justice Press Officer
01234 308 538 - 07736 949 869