Church responds to councillor's comments on homeless people

A VICAR has issued a reaction statement to comments on homeless people made by a UKIP councillor.

Wednesday, 5th July 2017, 9:42 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th September 2017, 11:39 am
Rev Bob White. Photo: Habibur Rahman

Speaking on behalf of Anglican churches in the area, Rev Canon Bob White – also Dean of Portsmouth – has responded to controversial comments made by councillor Colin Galloway.

On Monday, Cllr Galloway said homeless people were an ‘unwelcome detritus’ which ‘must be removed’ from the streets of Portsmouth.

His comments came as statistics showed the city’s number of rough sleepers have more than quadrupled in three years.

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Answering Cllr Galloway, Rev White – vicar of St Mary’s Church, Fratton Road – issued the following statement.

‘Many members of the churches across the city of Portsmouth will have heard on Sunday the gospel reading from Matthew, reminding us to welcome others and in doing so to welcome God in our midst.

‘As we reflect this week on those words of Jesus, we find them jarring with the comments made by a local councillor.

‘To so dehumanise the ‘other’ person is to also dehumanise ourselves and in doing so to devalue and disfigure the image of God in each of us.

‘It is my honour to be the chair of Churches Homeless Action. This group every year seeks to encourage people to recognise those on the margins of our society as fellow humans and to seek to send them a greeting card at Christmas along with a gift voucher.

‘This simple act reminds us that we all have a value and are worthy of being respected and acknowledged and that no one should be treated as merely a number, a problem or worthless.

‘We call on all councillors to reject this and to refuse to be associated with any wording which reduces people to mere objects of derision.

‘We would encourage everyone to each day find some small way of recognising and respecting the stranger and discovering the image of God in each of them.’

Cllr Galloway’s comments have divided opinion across the city.

Clare Beresford, who runs Portsmouth Homeless Support, said: ‘What this councillor has said is truly disgusting.

‘You can’t make someone do something they don’t want to do.

‘If the system worked better then most of these people would be in accommodation.’

However, UKIP councillor Stuart Potter supported what Cllr Galloway had to say, stating that Portsmouth ‘is no longer a welcoming city to either business or tourist because it seems we prefer to have vagrants’.