THE storing up of wealth is a “theological blind-spot” among UK Christians, who have enough capital between them to buy enough homes to house every homeless person, the head of a housing charity said last week.
Ed Walker, executive director of Hope Into Action, which supports churches to house the homeless, said that there was a “huge seam of wealth” owned by Christians that was “really untapped for the Kingdom”. He speaks regularly on Luke 12 and the story of the man who stored his wealth in barns.
“There is quite a theological blind-spot in how Christians use their wealth,” he said. Wealth in congregations was “sitting dormant”, and churches were keeping reserves that they didn’t need. “If we could use that for the Kingdom, there is no way we couldn’t have a home for every homeless person in the country. People think you are mad when you say that but it’s simple maths.”
Founded by Mr Walker seven years ago — he used an inheritance to open a home in partnership with Bretton Baptist, in Peterborough — Hope Into Action is about to open its 50th home. It has raised more than £8 million in investment capital. In each instance, a Christian with spare capital buys a house and leases it to the charity for five years, after which it is let on affordable rents to homeless people who are supported by local churches (News, 17 April, 2015). There are now 16 such houses in Peterborough and another 34 across 14 other towns or cities. They are open to a range of people, including people in recovery from addiction, women and children fleeing domestic violence, refugees, former sex workers, people suffering from mental-health issues, and survivors of human trafficking.
The charity reports that 81 per cent of people with drug and alcohol problems reduced their intake, and 89 per cent of former prisoners did not reoffend.
“Our theory is that there is relational poverty that undergirds the root cause of their homelessness,” Mr Walker said. “If someone has nowhere to go tonight, they have no one to go to. If I came out of prison, I could phone up my mum or wife or various other people, and they would take me, and that prevents me from being homeless. If you have no one to go to, there is relational poverty; so no wonder people turn to drugs and alcohol.”
He described meeting one homeless person who had not seen their daughter for a year. “All that is so important to our sense of wholeness and also our value. If we don’t think we are a good father or mother that really goes strong to the core of who we are.” Churches were crucial to building relationships, he said. “We put you in a home, not a hostel or a shelter — the same sort of home I’d be happy to live in — and we will surround you with a richness of relationship.” Success was defined, he said, by whether those leaving did so with greater “social capital”.
Last year, 82 per cent of tenants reported improved relationships with their families.