Thinking compassionately about homelessness
One of the statistics I have picked up recently is that since the lockdown 90% of rough sleepers in the UK have been provided with accommodation. But rough sleepers are only part of the problem of homelessness (because some homeless people are sofa-surfing, or living in make-shift accommodation, etc) . Still, it is a significant achievement, and shows what can be done with determination. The urgency was driven by fear of the virus running through groups of people vulnerable to infection and failing to observe isolation. One good outcome of Covid.
In the past we have all seen rough sleepers in our towns and cities. I have seen the same problem in the USA. It is an appalling tragic sight. We know that there are many reasons for people becoming homeless: unaffordable rents, benefit delays, domestic fall-outs, mental health problems, addictions, job loss, low wages, etc. In some cases it must be true that people bring homelessness upon themselves. But I am sure in the majority of cases circumstances beyond their control are to blame.
We might find encouragement in what has been achieved in a matter of weeks for rough sleepers. But this is only the start of tackling a huge, multi-faceted problem. For the future, for example, we need ways to identify potential homelessness before it happens.
Christians have been active in providing help for the homeless. Here in Crewe, for example, the Lighthouse project on Stewart Street provides support. In Manchester the Bishop of Manchester chairs the Manchester Homelessness Partnership.
It might help Christian motivation to remember Jesus was seemingly homeless during his ministry. It seems likely that he “sofa-surfed” in the homes of his disciples and friends. Matthew 8:20 and Luke 9:59 both record a statement by Jesus in which he describes his homelessness by saying that foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head.
Statues like the one below have been appearing in various cities in the last few years. The feet show the wounds of the nails from the crucifixion. Here was a good man who was homeless. Today’s homeless are for the most part good people caught up in tragic circumstances. These statues are reminders of that.