When we think about why people find themselves homeless in the UK, there is no single simple explanation – instead, ‘structural’ and ‘personal’ factors interact to create many different pathways to homelessness. Understanding these reasons helps homeless charities better target their work to address the needs that still very much exist in our country – where more than 1 in every 200 people is estimated to be homeless. [Report]
So, what do we mean by ‘structural’ and ‘personal’ factors? Structurally, on a large scale, we see ongoing issues with homelessness in large part due to a chronic lack of secure, affordable housing. Wide inequalities in wealth distribution, and the poverty that results from this, as well as unemployment, are also recognized as being significant factors in causing homelessness – and the COVID-19 pandemic has only created added pressure in these areas.
These structural issues in turn influence personal factors contributing to homelessness. Relationship breakdown, bereavement, poor physical or mental health, substance misuse, sudden job loss and domestic abuse can all cause people to become homeless. Some groups of people face a particularly increased likelihood of finding themselves homeless – for example, people leaving the care system or the army, or coming out of prison. It’s also sadly the case that the trajectory towards homelessness can begin in childhood, with abuse, poverty and other adverse childhood experiences predisposing people towards an increased risk of housing issues as adults. Once people find themselves homeless, the stresses and pressures that this entails can lead to them becoming trapped in a vicious cycle, with the issues and risk factors then becoming more engrained.
Importantly, though, the national UK housing charity Crisis say that ‘in nearly all cases, homelessness is preventable, and in every case it can be ended’. The church, as it lives out its call to ‘act justly and love mercy’, is perfectly positioned to bring hope and good news to people facing homelessness, by challenging unjust structures and offering practical love and hospitality to individuals. Just as the reasons for homelessness are many and varied, so are the solutions to the problem at a local level.
Green Pastures already work with more than 70 partners across the country, who are each playing their different parts to end homelessness in our nation. We exist to resource churches to fulfill their God-given vision – from large Christian homeless charities with multiple properties, to small churches whose homeless ministry involves faithfully loving three residents in one house, to foodbanks and community drop-ins who are engaged in preventative work. Our partners house people recovering from substance misuse issues, families, people who have escaped domestic abuse, ex-offenders and many more – walking with them, loving them and providing them with a safe space in which to flourish.
As we continue in 2021 - with an awareness of the growing needs that the COVID-19 pandemic will bring - whatever your heart, we are here to release you into your ministry, to see lives transformed and restored. To find out more, contact us here.