Churches reflect on Homeless Sunday

Sun 24 Jan 2016
By Aaron James

Christians across Britain are being encouraged to do what they can for people without a place to live on Homeless Sunday.

The day also urges Christians to oppose the causes of homelessness, and to celebrate the people, places and initiatives which regularly address the problem.

Official government figures say that of all 29,050 applications that local governments in England received for housing assistance between July and September 2015, 22,078 of those applications were homeless.

These applications are a mixture of individuals and families, therefore more than 22,078 people from these figures were actually homeless.

The figures also do not include Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, or any people who did not apply to an English local authority for housing assistance within the July to September period.

Homelessness is also increasing rather than decreasing in England, according to official stats.

Kate Bassford, Assistant Manager of the Christian homelessness charity The Canaan Trust, told Premier that many homeless people do not know they are able to receive benefits to help them, and when they do apply, the process takes too long and is difficult for them to complete.

She also highlighted "sofa surfers" - people who sleep at various friend's and family's houses but have no fixed address, who are not included in official figures.

Her prayer was that: "As a country we can aim to start looking after these people - the homeless, the needy, the poor, and break that circle.

"Because if we don't break that circle this is just going to carry on, and it will get worse and worse.

"We all need to keep praying, and we need God to carry on helping us do this work."

The Bishop of Jarrow, Rt Revd Mark Bryant, has been advocating the Nightstop scheme as part of Homeless Sunday.

It sees volunteers bring in a vulnerable young person into their home to stay for the night.

Police perform background checks on the young people first so the volunteers are safe to bring them in.

Rt Revd Bryant told Premier: "For people for whom life's really really difficult, like so many of the homeless, he wants them and he desires that they will have a better life.

"They [homeless people] will tell you that one of the most difficult things is that people just don't treat them with respect - doesn't matter how many degrees they've got, how much experience they've got, people just think they're thick and useless.

"God wants all of us to be treated with respect, with dignity and with honour."

A DCLG spokesman said: "One person without a home is one too many but homelessness is now less than half its peak in 2003.

"We take homelessness extremely seriously and since 2010 have made £1 billion available to tackle homelessness and support vulnerable households.

"We have also introduced measures to ensure tenants get a fair deal, are aware of their rights and are protected from retaliatory evictions."

Listen to Premier's Aaron James speaking to Kate Bassford here:

Listen to Premier's Ian Brittain speaking to Rt Revd Mark Bryant here:

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