Deaths of the homeless are the tragic tip of the iceberg of suffering

11 October 2019

The soaring numbers of people dying on the streets represents the tip of the iceberg of suffering that is caused by homelessness, say church leaders and mission partners working on the ground.

Roger Clark, CEO of West London Mission (WLM), which has supported thousands of homeless and vulnerable people since 1887 said:

“The fact that 726 people died on the street in 2018 is an absolute scandal. Those that have passed must not be forgotten for who they were and their legacy must be action.”

The Revd Mike Long, Minister of Notting Hill Methodist Church and Chair of Shelter’s Commission, ‘A Vision for Social Housing’, said:

“These deaths represent the tragic tip of the iceberg in terms of the suffering that homelessness causes. Hundreds of thousands of people are classed as homeless in Britain today, having to cope with ‘temporary’ accommodation that in many cases is harmful to physical and mental health. 'This makes no economic sense nor is it morally acceptable'.

The work of thousands of people of faith across the country supports the increasing homeless population. At West London Mission a range of services prevent homelessness through empowering people to make positive changes in their lives. CEO Roger Clark says, “At present we are focused on getting our centre at Seymour Place, Marylebone refurbished and relaunched to give people a route off the street which isn’t paying the ultimate price.”

A co-ordinated holistic response to homelessness across Manchester, of which the faith sector plays a critical part, aims to bring an end to rough sleeping. The Revd Ian Rutherford, City Centre Minister at Methodist Central Hall, Manchester, Chair of the Greater Manchester Homelessness Faith Network, Co-Chair of Greater Manchester Citizens and member of the Greater Manchester Homelessness Programme Board, said:

“There has been a large increase in the number of people who are homeless due to termination of tenancies. There are, of course, other causes too and we aim to reduce homelessness by tackling these causes.

“In Great Manchester, A Bed Every Night offers respite for people with nowhere to go. We aid recovery by helping individuals to work towards independence and ultimately reconnecting with their potential. This is achieved by giving, for example, opportunities for employment, volunteering, training and education.

“In my own church the café offers training and employment opportunities for people seeking to reskill.”

Paul Morrison, Policy Adviser for the Joint Public Issues Team, said:  “Homelessness has rapidly increased over the last decade. Cuts in housing benefit and support services have taken their toll. It cannot be right that families in work are unable to make ends meet and pay the rent.

It is fantastic that churches are responding to the increasing need – but in the long term we need radical policy change to ensure that family’s incomes and rents can meet”