“Is not this what I choose, to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house…”
Isaiah 58: 7
In 1990 there were 150,000 homeless people in the country and I was among those demanding Government action, but thirty years later the number has more than doubled. The number of homeless people is much worse than the figures tell us though and the solutions more complex than building new houses.
If someone hasn’t got a roof and doesn’t have a bed then they are probably homeless, but a roof doesn’t make a home and a bed isn’t a place to rest, even with a pillow for your head, if you don’t feel safe where you are. The figures can tell the story we want them to tell, but whether they lie or tell the truth isn’t up for debate. What is known for sure is that there are people, and too many of them, who need a home. The answer isn’t, and never has been, to build more and more houses or flats because even with walls and doors people need more than a roof over their head.
People make the home so if they’re not strong and valued the home can fall apart, so wood and stones are only a home if the flesh and bones within have a heart that warms the place. Home is where the heart is, but if the heart is left out in the cold the residents can feel homeless. A house is where someone lives, but a home is where love is found. There are more homeless people in the country than have been counted in any statistics and Covid is creating many more as love is evicted into the cold.
Build a house with a roof and walls and give a bed with a pillow for their head will on their own never be a home unless the people are built with the strength of love. I have seen so many people abandoned in a house with poor health, no job, no money, no furniture and no support and so they never know what it’s like to have a home. So when I was long those demanding government action is 1990 it wasn’t for new houses without the resources that make a home. I say the same today. Home is where the heart is and the heart is the home of love.
A roof doesn’t do it if the walls are damp and health is bad or the worries too many because there is no job to pay the rent, put food on the table and care for the children. A bed with a pillow for a head isn’t enough when nights are long and sleepless through worry and fear of anger and violence or a knock on the door from the bailiffs. So now, tell me, how many people are homeless?
This weekend is Homeless Sunday and I am concerned for the thousands without a roof over their head, but there are so many more squatting in an abandoned building, sleeping on the floor of a friends house or making the best of a caravan or four in a bed in some cramped little flat. There are even more who have a house with a roof and walls, but can’t call it home because they are abandoned without any hope of a job that will pay the bills, restore their health so they can build a home where love dwells!
We can stop the number of homeless people increasing by building people so they can move into houses and flats and build themselves a home! My house is where love lives and that is in my heart so that is where I welcome you to come and find the warmth of God’s presence.
I was managing a hostel for homeless young people and a member of the National Churches House Coalition thirty years ago and I repeat what I said then: Don’t put people under a roof and expect them to call it a home if they are still burdened with worry and fear without the resources to escape from it.