AN INNOVATIVE church-based housing scheme in Peterborough looks
set to be rolled out nationally, after delegates from around the
country gathered in the city at the end of last month to hear how
the initiative Hope into Action was helping to release millions of
pounds' worth of capital for supported independent living.
The scheme is relatively straightforward: a Christian with spare
capital buys a house, and leases it to the charity for five years.
The house is then let on affordable rents to vulnerable homeless
people, who are supported by volunteers from local churches. After
eight or ten months, the tenants are ready to move into longer-term
accommodation, and new tenants move in.
The investors receive a two-per-cent annual return on their
investment. After five years, the house is sold, and they receive
the sales proceeds.
"We know that there are millions upon millions of pounds of
Christian wealth across this country," the executive director of
Hope into Action, Ed Walker, told delegates. "When you put money in
banks, shares, and savings accounts, as we all rightly do, you are
sharing with the rich and enabling them to get richer. Why not
share some of it with the poor, and help the poor get richer?"
He recognised that the scheme was not for everybody, but he
said: "One can see a massive seam of wealth which, if tapped, could
have a dramatic impact on the Kingdom and the poor in this country.
We see a time when it is normal practice for Christians to have
some of the wealth shared with the poor through investing in a
The scheme, which began five years ago, now has 14 houses in
Peterborough, and another 13 elsewhere in the country. Eight more
houses are currently being prepared. The initiative has been
welcomed by Peterborough City Council, which is now working to
build the initiative into its proposed "housing pathway".
"My vision is about having the right services for the right
people, families, and communities, at the right time, in the right
place," the council's corporate director of people and communities,
Wendi Ogle-Welbourn, said. "We are only ever going to be able to
respond to that vision if we work in partnership with people. .
"Individuals need a tapestry of support, because what will meet
one person's needs won't meet another's. We need to be able to pick
and choose, and build that individual tapestry together." She
continued: "Homelessness is a big issue for us. If we don't make
sure that people have got a roof over their head, any other service
we put in will not make a lasting difference."
A key aspect of the scheme is the volunteer support from local
churches, who provide mentors for the tenants. "Success for us is
when our tenants feel love from church members," Mr Walker
He said that although the initiative was evangelistic - "we want
people to come to faith; we long for that" - he emphasised that "we
would never want to abuse our tenants spiritually, or force our
beliefs on them. Many people have come to faith. We love that. But
we have to be careful not to be overly zealous and abuse people
One of the houses in Peterborough is sponsored by the cathedral.
The cathedral Missioner, Canon Jonathan Baker, said: "Hope into
Action has been brilliant in helping us to provide a long-term
solution for a family that would otherwise have been shunted from
one form of temporary accommodation to another.
"Members of the congregation have donated furniture and
equipment to help set up the house, and one of our small groups has
taken on the role of offering friendship and support to the
ONE of the largest groups of homeless people are those who were
in local-authority care as children.
"As a social worker, I really don't want to put children into
care," Wendi Ogle-Welbourn, of Peterborough City Council, told the
Hope into Action conference. "We bring children into care to keep
them safe. That's great. But what do we do at age 18? We say
"I think that's really difficult, because, between the ages of
16 and 21, I left home about five times, because I was trying it
out. When you're in care, you don't get that opportunity, because
when you leave - sadly, because we don't have enough
placements - we have got to put somebody in that bed with
those foster carers."
She remembered a time, she said, when young people in care were
given a black plastic sack to place their belongings in when they
left. "Just being given a suitcase makes a fantastic
Speaking in the House of Lords, the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt
Revd Timothy Stevens, said last month that young people in care
were "among the most vulnerable and at-risk members of our society.
. . At no point in their lives are that vulnerability and risk more
acutely felt than when transitioning to independent adult
Bishop Stevens, a former chairman of the Children's Society,
said that "these youngsters are three times more likely to run away
than other young people, and an estimated 10,000 of them go missing
The physical and mental health of young people leaving care "is
poorer than that of young people in the population as a whole", he
said. "They are almost twice as likely to have problems with drugs
or alcohol, or to report other mental-health difficulties." That
was why young people, when consulted, wanted to be able to leave
care when they were ready, and stay beyond the age of 18 if