The numbers of people rough sleeping, and those who are vulnerably housed in Bristol, has significantly increased over the past decade. In 2019, at the city council’s annual count there were 98 people sleeping rough (there were 41 recorded in 2014), and at the end of March 2020, 727 households were living in temporary accommodation.*
During the early part of the Covid-19 pandemic, the national government’s ‘Everyone In’ scheme, and the following ‘Protect’ campaign has reduced rough sleeper numbers significantly, but not entirely. Many people sleeping rough during the pandemic were given access to a wider range of housing and homeless pathway accommodation (allocated by the City Council Homelessness Prevention Team), including the expensive private rented sector but… prison leavers still need a home, women escaping the sex trade still need a home, those fleeing domestic violence still need a home, those who are yet to become homeless because of the economic fallout of the pandemic will still need a home.
If homelessness in Bristol is ever going to be solved, there needs to be a radically different approach than just giving someone a roof, a room, or an apartment. Homeless and vulnerably housed people desperately need a place to call home and a community, where they are known, looked out for, and loved. This is what we believe every person deserves.
With this in mind, at the start of 2021, we created Homes not Houses as our call to action for the church in Bristol to partner with us, alongside like-minded charities, and key local and national organisations, in enabling some of the most disadvantaged in our city to have a place that they can call home.
We have set an aspirational target for the Churches contribution to ending homelessness. Homes not Houses is about obtaining properties, placing homeless or vulnerably housed people in those properties, and through the committed involvement of local church communities, creating safe, trusting, empowering and loving communities where tenants are able to thrive.
We will be releasing more information about this exciting development as it transpires, but if you are a church leader who is interested in finding out more, or you have lived experience of homelessness that you would like to contribute to the team, this could be really invaluable. Please get in touch with Cathy Knowles, who we have engaged to lead this activity on our behalf. Cathy brings 14 years of experience leading property-based projects for church owned buildings. Cathy’s email address: [email protected]
Illustration: Olivia Jackson