By the Rev Peter Lambert, who leads Churches Together in Gosport’s Heart for the Homeless project
Homelessness is much more than a housing issue, as homelessness can occur as a result of poor health, unemployment or poverty.
There are also clear links between many cases of homelessness and substance misuse. These issues, together with the lack of a stable home environment, can make it difficult for homeless people to access a whole range of services.
Homelessness can in fact break the connections with the wider world that the rest of us take for granted. As Christians, we are called to bring new hope and opportunity in an atmosphere of unconditional love and compassion so those who are broken-hearted and wounded can rebuild damaged lives. And we are called to restore the self-respect of those who have been humiliated by what has happened to them. In humility, we listen to what they want to tell us about their lives. By listening and responding in compassion, our own lives are transformed.
We all have different gifts to bring. It might be in the form of practical help – preparing food for homeless people, seeing a local need and gathering like-minded people together or dare I say sitting on a management committee – but we all have a unique contribution to make.
At the same time, churches are not simply in the business of binding up wounds – we are also called to ask awkward questions about why the wounds were inflicted in the first place. We can’t avoid raising structural and political questions about housing and homelessness. We will do that best if churches, of whatever denomination, can work together.
When we work alongside homeless and badly housed people, we are responding to Jesus’s challenge to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’, we are responding to the call to put our faith into action and we are responding to the vision of a society where everyone is valued and everyone has a home.
If you would like to find out more about the Heart for the Homeless project go to http://together.ourchurchweb.org.uk/gosport/events/or contact the Rev Andy Davis, Vicar of Christ Church and Holy Trinity Church, Gosport on (023) 9258 0173 or email andy@christ- churchgosport.co.uk or firstname.lastname@example.org. n Churches Together in Gosport is a group of nearly 30 Christian churches and fellowships in Gosport and Lee-on-the-Solent.