More than a roof: how the Church can help restore a true sense of home

5 Aug, 2020

National Homelessness Week 2020

Don’t you love that feeling of stepping inside from the cold night? Straight away, I’ll kick off my shoes and slip into some UGG boots. The kettle is soon boiling for a nice hot drink, the kind that warms you up from the inside out. I’m cosy, sheltered and comfortable.

I’m grateful to have a place that’s home, but it’s not often that I stop and reflect on what a privilege and blessing it is.

Some time ago, churches and missions would hold vigils during the month of August to remember those who had died while living on the streets. These were purposely held in winter, when people were most likely to be overcome by the elements. What began with the church has since been recognised nationally as Homelessness Week.

This year’s theme for Homelessness Week is ‘Everybody Needs a Home’. Homelessness refers to more than sleeping rough — it includes those in insecure housing, couch surfing, crisis accommodation, refuges, and in inadequate housing such as caravan parks, illegal campsites and extremely overcrowded homes.

To have a home means to have security, stability, privacy, safety, and being able to control your space. Just as there is more to homelessness than sleeping on the street, there is more to ‘housing’ than a physical roof over someone’s head. A place to call home is necessary for human flourishing.

In the most recent CAP Client Survey, 73% said they feared losing their home or faced repossession. While CAP is not a homelessness service, as the famous saying from Benjamin Franklin goes “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Many of CAP Clients may only be a step or two away from various forms of homelessness.

Wendy’s story is one such example. Fleeing domestic violence, Wendy sought out safety for her and her two sons in a refuge. However, the refuge was only a temporary solution.

“After we left the refuge, we had nowhere to go. We were homeless for a while, moving from place to place and couch surfing with friends where we could. There were more than a few nights we had to sleep in our car.”

Unfortunately, many who seek specialist homelessness services end up being turned away due to a lack of resources. On average, each day across the nation 236 requests for help cannot be met. By partnering with the CAP, local churches help people out of debt and link them to a communities where they are known and loved, potentially removing pressure from these strained services.

After working with the local CAP Debt Centre, Wendy was able to become debt free, sober and restore her relationships. Now, she is financially empowered to live with her eldest son again, and her hope and dignity have been restored through the love of Christ, as she re-committed her life to Jesus!

The Church has always been called to serve and include the poor. At one stage, this looked like the churches that held vigils for the lives needlessly cut short. In partnership with CAP, the Church can step into a pending crisis, bringing practical help and invite vulnerable people into the warmth of a community. Even if right now that community is currently digital, the place of a church stays the same; as a place to call home.