How was your Christmas? Warm and safe and cosy? Now imagine having spent it outside in the cold. It’s difficult to imagine what winter is like for people sleeping rough. Do you feel particularly sad walking past a rough sleeper during these cold winter months?
Crisis suggests a staggering 24,000 people in Britain were sleeping rough or in cars, trains, buses or tents over the Christmas period, even though the official count is just 4,751! The Office of National Statistics released the first ever official stats about the numbers of homeless people who die in England and Wales. They estimate 597 people died homeless in 2017, a rise of 24% in five years. We all know that housing is the issue - so why is it so difficult for homeless people to get off the street?
We’re aware of the obvious barriers like drug and alcohol addictions, mental health issues, lack of appropriate accommodation or unemployment... but there are many less obvious barriers at play. Homeless people are often in a Catch 22 situation - no fixed address means no bank account, no bank account means work can’t start even if a job is found, no job means no ability to pay rent and then they’re back to square one - no fixed address.
On top of that, readjusting to ‘normal’ life after life on the street is often very difficult. Imagine having to take on financial responsibilities, make appointments and find work after months or years of no real routine or responsibilities? This could overwhelm even the most stoic person.
Rarely mentioned in the press is the isolation and loneliness that often quickly follows a move away from the street community. Also rarely mentioned is the huge amount of support required to help people move not just into accommodation, but into a new life away from the street.
Turning a corner
That’s why we’ve spent the last seven years developing our supported housing projects as part of our ministry to homeless people. We want to help them turn the corner on rough sleeping by providing a home combined with one-to-one support over a period of time. We want to give those who want to move away from rough sleeping more than just a bed - we also want to give them the opportunity to change their lifestyle for good... and as Christians, we believe that can only be found in knowing Jesus.
This year we’re launching a new short-term supported accommodation project, The Corner House, above our Webber Street day centre for homeless people in Waterloo. The Corner House will provide a home for rough sleepers for up to six months without the need to access public funds. We’ll also give them the support they need to move away from life on the street. And, most importantly, we’ll share the good news of Jesus with them in the context of a loving friendship.
Help us to make it happen
We are looking for volunteers - from local churches, or further afield - to come and join us once a month to help us make this happen. If you want to find out more, visit our page on volunteering at The Corner House or email me at email@example.com. Will you volunteer with us to help someone avoid another Christmas on the streets?