Helping Norfolk churches to house the homeless
The Christian charity Hope in Action is planning to expand its work to two more towns in Norfolk. Tony Gray, Norwich Coordinator for the charity, tells the story so far.
In 2012 Hope into Action started work in Norfolk with one volunteer approaching churches asking them to commit their time to help house the homeless. Now, after nearly eight years, Hope into Action is working with 11 Norfolk churches and housing 40 tenants in 11 houses, with 2 more in the pipeline.
Hope into Action provides the properties, professional support and expertise which can enable a church to engage with homelessness and help them to meet the vital, basic needs of vulnerable people living within their community. Our tenants are drawn from the homeless or would-be homeless with support needs. Our current tenants are ex-offenders, those recovering from addictions, those with poor mental health, and refugees. The churches we work with are of all shapes, sizes and denominations.
Church leader, Rev Martin Hartley, said: “Hope into Action has given St Catherine’s an opportunity to put our faith into action. To see God’s people using their gifts and skills to support our tenants is a real blessing.” A tenant who had been rough sleeping for many years and had lost everything through addictions said: It was the first time in nine to 10 years that I’d actually had a key to the front door and somewhere I could call home. Where I had given up hope, I then had hope.”
The Hope into Action model started in Peterborough in July 2010. The charity encourages an investor to buy a house to home the homeless, or if possible, an existing or new church property can be used. The charity then partners with a local church, which forms a group of 6-8 people committed to providing friendship and support to the tenants within that house.
A support worker is employed by Hope into Action to provide professional support such as organising tenancies, benefits, risk assessments and liaising with other agencies, involving formal meetings with the tenants once a week.
Hope into Action provides introductory training and ongoing support for the ‘Friendship and Support group’ made up of the 6-8 members from the church. In return this group gives practical and emotional assistance and prayer support to the tenants. The help can include showing tenants how to cook, being on hand to garden, talk through issues or drive them to a meeting.
Hope into Action founder Ed Walker said: “Churches are full of gifted people with so much to offer.” It is this church involvement in the lives of tenants that crucially sets Hope into Action apart from other housing associations or supported housing.
In Norfolk, Hope Into Action is working in Norwich, Wymondham and soon plans to expand the work to Great Yarmouth and Sheringham.
Head office address: 26 North St, Peterborough. PE1 2RA
Public contact details: firstname.lastname@example.org 01603 927271
Our needs: Hope into Action has the desire and resources to work alongside many more churches in Norwich and Norfolk. Tony Gray, the Hope into Action coordinator for Norwich explained: “It is an opportunity for churches to show the love of Christ to the marginalized in a practical way and our support and training stops it being daunting.”
While the Covid-19 lockdown has significantly affected us and restricted how we work, we have continued to take in new tenants. It has been a wonderful opportunity for churches to show love to our tenants through food parcels, presents, help with internet access. However, the impact of the virus to our society is likely to increase unemployment and homelessness, and the period of temporarily placing the homeless in hotels is coming to an end and there will be a far greater need for our services. We are earnestly seeking to work with more churches that feel called to help the homeless so we can expand our work.
Prayer requests: Please pray that we as a community of believers will be able to do more to help the homeless and that God will fan a flame in our churches to “share food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter.” (from Isaiah 58 v7)
Pictured above are Hope Into Action volunteers equipping a home