SIXTY years after Roman Catholic laywomen began helping young families in post-war slums, the need for churches to work for housing justice remains as great as ever.
This was the message delivered last week at a parliamentary reception marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Catholic Housing Aid Society, one of the organisations that became Housing Justice.
Social housing was “fading out”, warned the Revd Victoria Lawrence, the founder and president of Abigail Outreach Ministry, which is dedicated to supporting vulnerable women. Against a backdrop of budget cuts, unemployment, and growing demand for housing, collaboration between the Government and NGOs was “paramount”, she said; the Government was “daily coming to that realisation”.
Citing Right to Buy, a reduction in social housing, and reduced subsidies for new properties, she suggested that, “based on the current government housing policy, social housing is fading out. . . Social housing providers are struggling to find reasonably priced land. . . The future looks very bleak for social housing unless the Church rises up like before, and partners with other stakeholders to provide accommodation for their communities.”
She hopes that “the Church will go back to being the first point of call when it comes to affordable housing”, offering a “‘one-stop shop’ for all housing solutions”.
The chief executive of Housing Justice, Alison Gelder, said that this year would see “a renewed emphasis on persuading the churches to rise to the challenge of preventing homelessness, and helping homeless people into secure, genuinely affordable accommodation (News, 12 June). We are also carrying on the tradition of not waiting for the Government to sort out a problem, but instead taking the action we can to make things better. And not being afraid to use our prophetic voice to speak truth to power about the impact of government policies.”
The reception took place while the Chancellor, George Osborne, outlined his Budget. It included £115 million to tackle rough sleeping, which has doubled in England since 2010. Mrs Gelder said that help must not be limited to those who had been through the hostel system: “Our shelter guests should not need to face the dangers of institutionalisation in order to be helped.”
The chairman of Housing Justice, the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, who has written a prayer to mark the anniversary, said that housing was “probably the critical issue for the wellbeing of our society”.