Homelessness and Housing Gathering
On 10 June the second Methodist Homelessness and Housing Gathering took place on Zoom, meeting at a change moment in the midst of the Covid Emergency. The participants, from all across the Connexion, shared their experiences and insights on two questions “What are you seeing?” and “What do you want to see?” and then each made a personal commitment to act. The fruit of those discussions is here.
The hosts of the Gathering, Rev. Ian Rutherford and Rev. Dr. Mike Long, reflected on the structural changes that have taken place during the emergency (see below), the recent call from Dame Louise Casey (Head of the Government Rough Sleeping Task Force) for local communities groups and faith groups to be fully involved in the recovery response, here, the likelihood of insecure tenancies, the potential increase in mental health presentations after lockdown and the disproportionate impact on BAME communities.
The Gathering will follow up on the lobbying priorities, key immediate actions and possible long term solutions that were identified by the participants and hold another Gathering later in the year.
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions on Homelessness and Housing please contact Revd Ian Rutherford on firstname.lastname@example.org
We stand in solidarity with the thousands of people in the UK who have been experiencing homelessness in recent years.
We truly are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis.
People have been sleeping rough on the streets of our towns and cities.
People have been staying in emergency night shelters and hostels.
But as lockdown was announced at the end of March 2020 this was identified as one of the highest risk groups in terms of Covid-19.
The Government’s “Everyone In” policy has seen a massive effort on the part of local councils, homelessness charities, faith groups and health outreaches to mobilise and work together to bring people into safe accommodation in hotels and guest houses and to provide food and welfare support for the 3 months of April, May and June.
Day centres, homeless charities and churches have repurposed their operations so as to prepare and deliver huge quantities of food, to engage in continuous non face to face support and to be available for the purposes of emotional wellbeing and housing pathway planning.
In Greater Manchester this has been in relation to over 1,000 people initially and then over 500 more in the weeks since.
The lockdown itself has produced the environment where new people have come onto the streets (loss of a job, domestic abuse, early prison release, sofa surfing no longer being an option because of social distancing rules).
Individuals and families in unsupported temporary accommodation have also been heavily impacted by the Covid emergency.
There are so many reasons why people may find themselves sleeping rough on the streets, staying in emergency accommodation or living in temporary B & B:
The failed private rented sector
A broken welfare system
Being left destitute as an asylum seeker
Mental health challenges
Loss of employment
Can you imagine the insecurity of a doorway with an often-wet sleeping bag, people ignoring you as they walk on by?
However, the effect of having the vast majority of those who had been sleeping rough or had been in emergency accommodation now being cared for in hotels is that we are now in a change moment, enabling us to see the opportunity to end homelessness for good.
We have pleaded for more funding from Government so that we can take the opportunity of this change moment to end homelessness.
There has been a welcome announcement from the Secretary of State on this on 24 May 2020 and we look forward to getting into the detail with Dame Louise Casey who heads up the Task Force.
I am really hoping and praying for flexibility.
For an integration of accommodation, health and support.
For a commitment to co-production with those with experience of homelessness
For a willingness to pursue innovative solutions.
Good local partnerships will be vital to deliver the change that is needed. This is what we are developing in Greater Manchester as we take a whole society approach with cross-sector working.
As the Church in the UK we need to play our part faithfully as we “build back better”.
Now is the time for a conversation on what we are seeing across the UK and what we want to see as we seek to build a new future together.
Rev. Ian Rutherford (Methodist Central Hall, Manchester)
Lord, You tell us that in Your house there is room for everyone.
Help us as we strive for a world where everyone has a home that truly meets their needs
Give us the grace to welcome strangers and refugees
Give us the insight to see where inequality hurts
Fill us with courage to do our part.
Save us from being overwhelmed by the scale of the crisis and show us where to begin.
We commit ourselves to contribute all we can in practical action, material resources and pray.~We ask for the power of the Holy Spirit to be upon us and in us as we work together to end homelessness. In the name of Jesus,
Homelessness and Housing Gathering February 2020
In the UK, for every Methodist member there are two people who are homeless – defined as those sleeping rough or in temporary accommodation. This figure (around 320K) is a 4% increase on the previous year.
That was the background for a Methodist gathering on Housing and Homelessness at Carrs Lane in Birmingham in February, led by Rev’ds Ian Rutherford and Mike Long. I was impressed by the depth of experience in the room. People deeply involved in activities to combat this scourge both in and beyond the church gathered to share ideas.
Several things struck me. One was that churches tend to focus efforts on the respite – eg providing homeless shelters. We were encouraged to think about how we might also work in the areas of reduction (tackling root causes); recovery and reconnection. A simple coffee morning can be a route to reconnection if we are willing to be truly welcoming to a wide range of people.
Another was that no-one comes off the streets as the result of the efforts of just one organisation. It’s essential to work in partnership. This was a contribution from Jon Kuhrt, Faiths Advisor in the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government. Jon also urged us to avoid naivety. Only by combining grace and truth can we help people’s situations be transformed.
Finally, we don’t have to start with a huge scheme to set up a hostel. One starting point is when we choose what to do with an empty manse. We no longer have to get the maximum rental value – we can combine with partners to provide lower cost housing to someone in need.
With thanks to Revd Rachel Parkinson, one of the participants at the Gathering, for this reflection.
Resources from the first Homelessness and Housing Gathering; 8 February 2020, Birmingham
Presentations given during the Gathering:
Revd Ian Rutherford and Revd Mike Long
Dan Simpson – The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Housing, Church and Community
Jon Kuhrt – Rough Sleeping: What’s faith got to do with it
A paper was received by the Methodist Conference in 2019 on the work of the Church around rough sleeping and homelessness. Read here.
A report to Spring Synods 2019 entitled Responding to the Housing and Homelessness Crisis is available here.
The Methodist Recorder published this call for churches to be radical in responding to homelessness. (Reproduced by kind permission of the Methodist Recorder)
You can hear the Revd Ian Rutherford discuss concerns around housing and homeless in this excerpt from the Methodist Podcast recorded ahead of the February Gathering.
In this recording from May, Ian responds to issues of homelessness in Manchester during the Covid-19 crisis.