31st January 1999
Imagine that you don't know where you are going to spend tonight. Imagine that you have to ring round your friends and ask them if you can spend the night on their sofa - for the third time this week. Or that you've got the choice between going home to your violent father or staying out on the streets. Imagine that your "home" is a hostel that you share with complete strangers, or is a place that quite literally makes you ill. A home is more than a roof. It is somewhere that is warm, safe, secure, where you can afford to live, and can begin to grow and develop as a person.
But homelessness and bad housing damage the lives of many hundreds of thousands of people each year. From the young woman huddled in the doorway and the old man on the park bench, to perhaps the less violent images of a family living in a bed-and-breakfast, or in a home so damp that the wallpaper will not stay on the walls and the children have constant colds. In inner cities, prosperous towns or rural villages, homelessness exists - whether it is highly visible or remains hidden. Over a third of a million people were accepted as homeless by local authorities last year. Many more people never even appear on the official statistics.
It is scandalous that people are still homeless at the end of the twentieth century in a country as rich as ours. But what can we do about it?
One of the first steps is expressing our concern. This concern leads to the raising of people's awareness of the situation, which can result in action and then, finally, change. 31st January 1998 is the sixth Homelessness Sunday, a day when churches across the country make the opportunity to pray with and for homeless people, to find out more about homelessness, and to commit themselves to justice. The day is organised by CHAS (the Catholic Housing Aid Society), the Churches National Housing Coalition and the Scottish Churches Housing Agency, and is supported by all major denominations.
The theme of this year's Homelessness Sunday is Because People Matter. Based around worship but offering other opportunities for action, it will encourage congregations to recognise the human cost of homelessness. Each individual who is homeless or living in bad housing is a person who is loved and valued by God. Homelessness demands many responses:
Resources produced for the day will draw on the lectionary readings, including the prophet Micah who urges people to "do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God".
You can make a difference to people's lives. Make a start on Homelessness Sunday - because people do matter.