Working with homeless is a privilege
Anna Heydon explains why she considers her work with the homeless to be a privilege.
Last week I helped someone move into his new home. I have been involved in house moves before, but none with the emotional impact of this one. You see George (name changed) had been living in a tent on the beach for the last year. And his story could have turned out very differently.
The well-being statistics for people who are homeless do not make cheerful reading: 77% of homeless people have reported anti-social behaviour or crime against them in the past 12 months ; 44% of the homeless population have been diagnosed with a mental health issue ; The average age of death is shockingly low, at 47 ; And most recently it has been reported that 449 people died whilst homeless last year. Nine were in Norfolk . These figures are even more tragic when it is considered that these deaths are not officially counted or investigated.
I am privileged to be involved in the Living Room, Great Yarmouth; a shelter that uses church buildings to provide an overnight safe place for the homeless during the winter months. I say privileged because I get to meet people like George…and I could list many more. Privileged, because to me and the other volunteers, the people who come through our doors are not statistics; they are individuals with personalities and experiences which sometimes make us laugh and at other times bring us close to tears.
I have heard countless stories from our visitors of being attacked. Of the strain of living on the streets. Of the physical impact on their bodies of night after night sleeping on the cold, wet ground. And when a visitor doesn’t turn up for a few sessions we are concerned, because we know that the stakes are high.
Every visitor to the Living Room is welcomed by name and valued. But I believe that this is nothing compared to the depth of love and compassion that God has for them. Jesus said “What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your father knowing it... So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”
We currently live in a society where the homeless often die as unnoticed and unacknowledged as sparrows. I long for and pray for a change, and will work to see that change happen. But in the meantime, I thank God that no life or death is insignificant to him. And I thank God for George’s new home.
Postscript: since I wrote this blog just a couple of weeks ago, one of our regular and much loved visitors to the living room passed away. This blog is dedicated to him.
To read the most recent story on Network Norfolk about the Living Room, click here.
The image above is courtesy of https://pixabay.com
 p.6 ‘“it’s no life at all”: rough sleepers’ experiences of violence and abuse on the streets of England and Wales’ Ben Sanders and Francesca Albanese, Crisis, December 2016
 “Homelessness kills: an analysis of the mortality of homeless people in early twenty-first century England” Crisis report, 2012
Anna Heydon is Development Worker for Imagine Norfolk Together in Great Yarmouth, a joint venture between the Diocese of Norwich and the Church Urban Fund, a national organisation set up by the Church of England to combat unmet needs in communities.
Read more about one of their projects here.
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