Sunday 26 January 2014

Homelessness Sunday

Homelessness Sunday was marked in Sunderland by a service at the local Methodist Church, followed by the usual Sunday night drop in for marginalised men and women who are living on the edge of society.

The local authority is fond of saying that there are no people actually living on the streets in the city, and for that reason, along with a lack of volunteers, our Winter Night Shelter decided to close down after the first weekend in January.

I went down to the Sunday night drop in to find out if it was true, and if most people were managing to find some appropriate shelter, so had no need for a church floor. Over coffee and soup, I met Marc, Roy and 'No'. They had all been sleeping rough over the last two to three weeks. They were looking after each other as they slept in the subway near St Peter's metro station.

Cold and in a state, the people at the drop in supplied these three men with sandwiches, sleeping bags and encouraged them to keep presenting themselves to the local housing office.

Marc told me how he was now considering shop lifting as, even if he got caught, life in a cell was much better than life on the streets. 

I will chase up the local authorities tomorrow to see if they actually offer help to these guys, and to find out why they fail to class them as rough sleepers.

In the meantime, perhaps we need to reopen our churches as the weather takes a serious turn for the worse. Homelessness Sunday is about making those without shelter visible in our churches and in our communities. Then, and only then, will we stand with the broken ones and ask why Roy, Marc and 'No' still sleep on the streets in 21st Century Britain.

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