Recent statistics in the UK show that approximately 320,000 people are living homeless. This has pushed families to breaking points. In a time of spiraling rents, lack of social housing and welfare cuts.
Church Urban Fund has been providing much needed practical support among communities for thirty years. Working alongside local parishes in The Church of England. In addition to other faith based and secular organisations to impact communities and neighbourhoods.
The aim is to enable local people to address areas of need within their communities and speak out against injustice. At this time as winter beckons us all in. Many do not have the benefit of a warm and inviting home.
Let’s have a look at the issue and positive ways of how we can help.
As the nights draw in and the weather turns colder, the issue of homelessness is more topical than ever. Disturbing figures released last month by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism evidenced that more than 449 homeless people have died in the last twelve months.
Why is Church Urban Fund focusing on this issue now?
We believe that this time of year is an especially important time for Christians to reflect on homelessness given the prevalence of the issue in the Christmas story: after the annunciation Mary leaves her home to stay with Elizabeth (is this a biblical version of sofa-surfing for this soon-to-be young mum?) until the census forces her and Joseph on a dangerous journey to Bethlehem where they find inadequate lodging in a stable for the birth of their son. Jesus is born into homelessness and then, with his parents, is forced to flee as a refugee to escape Herod’s violent regime. Homelessness is an experience the holy family were very familiar with.
Why should Christians care?
Paul Hackwood, Executive Director of CUF said: “Christians and churches across England are doing life-changing work in communities responding to this issue, from night shelters, to supporting people into work. However, to really challenge the root causes of homelessness, we must accompany our practical and local activities of compassion with advocacy: this means standing up for the big picture change which challenges the causes and injustice which lie at the root of homelessness. As Christians, we share a moral responsibility to ensure that everyone living in this country has a decent standard of living, and a safe place to live, regardless of who they are.”
What is Church Urban Fund doing about homelessness?
The Church Urban Fund mobilises communities around the country to offer life-saving services to people experiencing homelessness through:
- Winter Night Shelters they support across the country providing emergency support particularly for rough sleepers.
- Their Places of Welcome programme where they open up a public building and offer hospitality with a cup of tea or coffee and a biscuit and a supportive chat which often signposts people to the help they need.
- Their Positive Pathways work in Yorkshire where they accompany people on the journey from rough sleeping to something more stable and affirming.
How has Christian Urban Fund helped people?
Tom who has been helped by CUF’s work explained:
“I’m Tom. I’m 26. I was homeless. Some people are homeless because of drugs and stuff like that. That wasn’t my problem. Some people are homeless because of their mental state. That’s partly why I was homeless because of my mental health.
“My mum didn’t care about me. My family just abandoned me. And I was going through a really rough time, sleeping on a mate’s sofa when I could, but otherwise I just had to sleep rough on the streets.
“It was a really difficult time being homeless, I was at the point that I wanted to kill myself. If I hadn’t got the help when I needed it, yeah, I wouldn’t be here.
“Then I got referred to this winter night shelter. They provided a warm bed, a listening ear and hot meals. It was very welcoming and homely. I was there for two months and they even supported me when I had to attend court.
“At the shelter, there was a volunteer who found out that I had worked in catering in the past. She suggested I attend an interview at a local guest house. I got the job! And a permanent place to stay.
“With homelessness there’s always more that could be done, but what they have done for me here is beyond expectation.”
How you can get involved and support Church Urban Fund’s work?
1| Advent Resources
There are amazing Advent resources available about homelessness, including four beautiful Advent devotionals, to download here
2| Sleep out Challenge
In order to fund the work and also to the help get a glimpse of what it is like to not have a bed to call home, we hold an annual sleep out challenge. During Advent, people throughout England will be giving up a night of comfort and sleeping out with their friends, families, church groups, clubs and community groups. They’ll be wrapping up in their winter woollies for a fun night in school halls, churches, community halls, scout huts; garden sheds…pretty much anywhere, just as long as it’s not in their beds – and getting sponsored to do it. The funds raised can transform lives. Find out more here
If you don’t want to take part in the Sleep out but want to donate to the work of Church Urban Fund, you can do so here
These are some great reasons to choose to volunteer. Begin today. By giving of your time and resources to carry each other’s burdens.
Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward them for what they have done. Proverbs 19:17 NIV