With homelessness increasing, local churches and congregations have risen to the challenge of addressing the growing need. Church Housing Trust, with Housing Justice and Word on the Streets, conducted a survey to see what services they provide, what they have learned, and what could be done to further support them. The result was a booklet, ‘How to Help Homeless People’. Christian homelessness organisations Church Housing Trust, Housing Justice, and Word on the Streets recently asked churches about their work with homeless people and created an information booklet to support them.
The ‘How to Help Homeless People’ booklet provides advice for clergy and laypeople on how to help homeless callers and what further action they might take, especially if they do not run any services themselves. It includes practical advice and a poster that can be filled in with local shelters, hotlines and other emergency contacts.
When asked if they had seen signs of homelessness increasing in their areas, churches that took part in the survey said they have noticed an increase in visible rough sleeping, followed by a higher number of people with no home of their own who were ‘sofa-surfing’, or staying with friends and family.
Most churches surveyed ran food banks, or provided hot meals, clothes, and shelter. They also understood that beyond these short-term responses, it is necessary to try and support each individual to get ongoing help, usually by referring them to statutory services.
Many church-based homelessness services run on teams of volunteers. On average, they are helping 28 people a week; most helped at least 18 homeless individuals per week. Nearly three quarters had the same homeless person visit at least once a week.
Churches were very aware of the need to link with other facilities and services, not only to improve communication and action but to share experience, training, and understanding of the issues surrounding homelessness.
There was overall agreement that the government also needs to invest more in prevention. A large number of those being helped had complex needs such as mental health or addiction issues.
A lot of churches cited a lack of appropriate accommodation or storage as the main restriction on the services they could provide. This was regardless of the prosperity of the area, or the size of the church.