Living with homelessness this winter

The Sleep Out for Homelessness event on January 23rd 2021 will help to raise funds for Carecent in York, and SASH. Short for ‘Safe and Sound Homes’, SASH operates across a large geographical area and provides services to prevent youth homelessness right across the Yorkshire North & East Methodist District. Nationally, the last few months have seen huge shifts in provision for rough sleepers, and services on the ground have had to adapt quickly in order to provide safe options for people experiencing this form of homelessness. Recent trends have also thrown into sharp relief how the wider experience of homelessness is much more than what we see in terms of visible rough sleeping. Escalating levels of domestic violence during the pandemic have exposed many more individuals to the risks of homelessness. Goodness only knows how the hidden homeless of sofa surfers coped during the lockdown.

At the same time a recent article in the Lancet has drawn attention to the particular risks that COVID19 poses for homeless people this coming winter and what this means for accommodation and support services over the next few months. The urgency of the situation is reflected in the announcement last week of a new call for evidence by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee which will look at homelessness and consider what additional support may be needed over the winter months and following the increase in infection rates.

How are churches responding to homelessness?

Recent attention on homelessness by the Joint Public Issues Team (made up of the Baptist Union, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church) has made sure that people who have experienced homelessness are at the centre of discussions about how churches can be part of the solutions.  From Harrogate to Hull and Selby to Scarborough, there’s already a fantastic range of work all around our own District both within and between churches, and the challenge is how we build on this work going forwards. In this respect the response within our own area is replicated right across the Connexion and there have been three Methodist Homelessness and Housing Gatherings this year to share and learn from our experiences of the current crisis.  But these meetings are also thinking about how churches respond in the future and how we can be part of a bigger picture of tackling homelessness locally and nationally in the coming years. We have been challenged to think much more broadly about how we might also work in partnership with other agencies to prevent homelessness, as well as supporting how people move on from homelessness. That is, how churches can be part of people’s recovery and reconnection within communities.  The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Housing, Church and Community will soon be publishing a toolkit to support how churches might further respond in their areas and build upon the work already going on. Once this ‘how to’ toolkit is available, we will be hosting an event over the District to look at what this means for us in our own contexts and how it might help to shape our own responses to homelessness within our communities.

Exploring homelessness

In the run up to the Sleep Out for Homelessness we’ll look in more detail at some of the particular issues facing homeless people. Over the next few weeks we’ll feature a series of blogs that will explore:

  • youth homelessness;
  • some of the issues that contribute to the risk of homelessness in childhood;
  • the hidden nature of homelessness especially in the rural areas of our District.
  • contributions from Carecent and SASH,
  • how we might respond locally as individuals and churches going forwards into 2021.

The timing of the Sleep Out for Homelessness in January reminds us that whilst Christmas is often a time that grabs the headlines about homelessness, winter is a long season for anyone living in precarious and vulnerable housing situations or rooflessness.

Find out more about the Sleep Out for Homelessness event here:

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