The issue of homelessness and housing is a pressing one across the country. Within our diocese there is a particular need due to the housing crisis, which results in the high cost of homes in the area. Many churches are involved in responding to these needs through homeless shelters, soup kitchens and other initiatives.
Homelessness can take many forms, with street homelessness (also called rough sleeping) the most visible and dangerous. Other types of homelessness include people living in temporary accommodation (night shelters, hostels, refugees) and sofa-surfing (living with friends or family, often the 'hidden homeless').
There are also people who, whilst housed, find themselves in unsuitable accommodation, perhaps due to dangerous or unhealthy living conditions, overcrowding, or the housing is unsuitable for their needs (e.g. accessibility requirements or transport connections). Renting homes can often be insecure, causing distribution and stress, and preventing people from connecting with and contributing to their communities.
When our homes are of decent quality, the comfort and security they provide enrich our lives and support our mental and physical health. It's essential that everyone has this foundation. The church must therefore call for affordable and suitable housing for everyone, as well as continue to support those who are currently homeless or vulnerably housed.
- Dwelling Places: Housing and Homelessness in the Diocese of Oxford presents an overview of the current housing tenure and homelessness context, and offers a theological reflection about home, place and belonging. The report explores the church's response to homelessness and housing need. It aims to equip churches to consider local needs, how they respond practically and collaboratively, and how we can all share the love of God with those who are homeless and in housing need.
- A Place to Call Home - A helpful resource from the Joint Public Issues Team for small groups to reflect on biblical texts relating to housing.
- Lost and Found: Faith and Spirituality in the Lives of Homeless People - the first study of homeless people's attitude to faith involving in-depth interviews with over 70 people.
- Coming Home - a report from The Archbishops of Canterbury and York setting out a bold new vision for housing and community.
- A Framing Toolkit: How to talk about homes - essential guidance and tips from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation for how to communicate about the importance of decent and affordable homes as fundamental to a healthy, decent life.
- Housing Justice is a national charity that enables churches, shelters, Local Authorities and MPs to effectively help homeless people; formed in 2003 when the Catholic Housing Aid Society (CHAS) and the Churches' National Housing Coalition (CNHC) merged.
- Shelter Thames Valley offers a wide range of help and advice on all housing and homelessness issues.
- Crisis offers education, training and support at their centre in Oxford. Serving individuals who are homeless or at immediate risk of becoming homeless.
- The Porch Oxford is an Oxford Day centre open 6 days a week. They provide support for over 200 people a year to move away from addiction and dependency.
- Citizens Advice Bureaus advise on housing issues, as well as many other rights issues; information about renting or buying a home, finding somewhere to live, and advice on problems with landlords, eviction and more.
- Consider how you talk or write about housing and homes using the framing toolkit from Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
- ACORN – a mass membership organisation, using community organising principles to work for a fairer deal for communities. Anyone can join, and together work for local social justice, often focusing on issues of expensive and poor-quality housing (as well as other issues like fair pay and access to public services).
Reflect on Isaiah 32:18:
My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.
Commit to praying. We like this prayer:
Hear our prayer for all women and men, boys and girls
who are homeless this day.
For those sleeping under bridges, on park benches,
in doorways or bus stations.
For those who can only find shelter for the night
but must wander in the daytime.
For families broken because they could not afford to pay the rent.
For those who have no relatives or friends who can take them in.
For those who have no place to keep possessions
that remind them who they are.
or those who are afraid and hopeless.
For those who have been betrayed by our social safety net.
For all these people, we pray
that you will provide shelter, security and hope.
We pray for those of us with warm houses and comfortable beds
that we may not be lulled into complacency and forgetfulness.
Jesus, help us to see your face
in the eyes of every homeless person we meet
so that we may be empowered through word and deed
to bring justice and peace to those who are homeless.