Our 8-day Street Talk tour in May around the churches in all 3 of our towns was a great success, but every session had a key moment when the reality really struck home.
As John and Lydia (not their real names) spoke, the room fell silent – their quiet voices courageously telling of how as a homeless couple they have experienced the very worst of sleeping rough on the street: being urinated on, stolen from, threatened, ignored and so on. But then they talked of how in recent months, individuals from local churches and from Faithworks Arch Connection team had helped them get to the point of believing that having their own place was possible. They were asked what people and the local Church could offer them: their answer was surprising:
“Love, friendship and time is all we want!”
This resonated every time we met during the tour: whether in the on-line daily prayer times, at the pop-in sessions, and particularly as Ed Walker MBE, the founder of national charity Hope into Action closed the tour, talking of the pent-up wealth and energy in this area that could be released to house the homeless, and provide more support for the likes of John and Lydia.
We are hugely grateful to the churches who hosted the tour, and to the 120 or more people who came out to demonstrate the heart that local Christians have for those without homes: we talked about the huge amount that is going on thanks to the local Homelessness partnership, and we celebrated the work of so many Christians and local Churches in providing food, signposting and practical support to those in dire need.
But we also recognised that despite all of this, the need is growing – there are now over 100 families in B&B, and people are slipping through the net to be long term on the street. We heard from those with lived experience about the barriers to getting off the street. We talked about what makes a “home” (a place of safety and purpose, with positive relationships). We looked at what the Bible has to say. And we thought about what would help, with the word “Prevention” coming up again and again, so that (as the new national strategy puts it) homelessness becomes rare, infrequent and non-recurring. Could we build a new offer around friendship teams that would meet the need that John and Lydia talked about?
So what next?
Over 50 people have said “yes I want to be involved”: so, we’re already talking to people about practical things that they could do now like creating welcome backs to those moving into emergency accommodation, or how they can join regular prayer, or back the work with financial support (Donate here or click on the button in this article or at the top of the page). And we are talking to those who might want to invest in more Hope into Action homes .
But in the next month we are also thinking about that “friendship teams” idea, so:
- We are visiting other inspirational Homelessness projects like this outside of BCP
- We are talking to churches who might like to host friendship teams
- We are setting up more regular chances to pray
- We are identifying the resources and staff to train and empower volunteer teams
- And the funding to pay for this.
The need is urgent so in the week commencing 7th August, we’ll be coming back to Churches in each of the towns to share the plans for this Autumn.
It’s not too late to be involved – fill in the expression of interest form below to register your interest or call the office on 01202 429037 and leave a note for David Chidwick, our Homelessness projects lead, to give you a call back.
And what about John and Lydia? David says: “wonderfully, they have now moved into their own flat thanks to the support of so many local Christians who came on the tour. Please remember them in your prayers as they adjust to having walls and a roof over their heads!”