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There's no place like home

War Cry comments on homelessness

In England, more than 78,000 households are homeless and living in temporary accommodation

TOMORROW (28 January) is recognised as Homelessness Sunday in churches across the country. It is intended to be an opportunity for Christians to pray, reflect and plan practical action to support people experiencing homelessness.

The number of people needing such practical action and support is growing. According to the Commons public accounts committee, in England alone there are more than 78,000 households that are homeless and living in temporary accommodation, including 120,000 children.

The committee’s figures also reveal that more than 9,000 people are sleeping rough on the streets – a 134 per cent increase since 2011.

The Salvation Army provides 3,230 beds in more than 80 Lifehouses across the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland as one way of supporting those with nowhere to sleep at night. But life for rough sleepers has become even more difficult in recent years with the introduction of public space protection orders.

Introduced in 2014 to ban antisocial activities in specific areas, councils have used the orders in such a way as to criminalise homelessness. One council, for example, has banned lying down and sleeping in a park.

As a result, despite government ministers insisting this was not their intention, people experiencing homelessness gain criminal records and are given fines they cannot pay.

Organisations such as The Salvation Army and Liberty successfully campaigned for a review of the guidance given to local authorities and contributed to the review. The government issued those new guidelines at the end of last year. The hope is that, as they are implemented, fewer vulnerable people will be criminalised. The Salvation Army is encouraging individuals to take an interest in how their council is implementing the guidelines.

However, that will not solve the problem of homelessness, which has an impact on the lives of thousands of people every day.

This Sunday gives everyone, churchgoer or not, the opportunity to stop, reflect and consider whether there is anything they can do to help those with nowhere to call home.

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