CAPTION: At least 13 homeless people died in Exeter last year

A Heart for the Homeless

Posted: 31st January, 2020

Chris Keppie, CofE Devon Church and Society Officer writes…

“Last Sunday, St Petrock’s church, Exeter, joined with the synonymous charity next door and the Salvation Army to mark Homelessness Sunday with love. It was deeply moving, with the Army’s rousing brass leading us in the likes of When I Needed A Neighbour Were You There?, a gentle reading of the challenging parable of the sheep and goats, updates on St Petrock’s new private lettings & support agency to complement their Survival work, and especially remembering the 13 homeless and vulnerably housed service users who died last year. A horrendous number, tragically replicated across our rich country.

A few days before I was at the ecumenical ‘One For Exeter’ group hearing from Karime Hassan, CEO of Exeter City Council, on his desire for real communities in new housing developments and the importance of churches to shape and lead positive change, and from leaders of CoLab and the new Exeter Homeless Partnership on the continuing importance of churches as we all collaborate, coordinate, and educate to make changes with compassion. I’m delighted that the One group has made homelessness its first new ‘hub’ for social action.

Whilst all these examples happen to be in Exeter, I’m excited by the success of Plymouth’s new investment and collaborative approach across sectors, helping to buck trends of rough sleeping. Also by the new shelter at Abbotsbury church, Newton Abbot, featured in February’s newsletter.

Having previously worked in homelessness for charities and councils, as volunteer, manager and commissioner, I’m pleased finally to put some information on the Diocese website here. Please do look / use / feedback!

And shifting from last week to the end of this week, on Friday 31st another local homeless charity, Julian House, is organising a ‘sleep-out’ fundraiser. Of course it’s nothing like the real thing for all sorts of reasons, but I’m sure that just one night out in winter (even with safety, warmth, food, future, past, and love to return to) will increase our empathy. And I’m very grateful my tiny action has raised over £1000 so far, for their services ranging from street outreach and winter shelter to the preventative young people’s Nightstop, to rehabilitative employment skills and more.