I’ve been vicar of St Martin’s for eight years but I still find myself baffled by homelessness. Baffled by how sleeping rough can seem a less-bad option than whatever other options a person has in life. Baffled by what the best strategies are for genuinely trying to be helpful. Baffled by whether the term ‘homeless’ means helpful, since the rest of us would be horrified to be known by the one thing we aren’t, rather than the many things we hope we are. In awe of those who give their careers and their lives to walking with homeless people, in spite of the frequent disappointments and discouragements of such work. And in awe of many homeless people themselves who, despite hardship and a great deal of misery, often show imagination, humour, generosity and insight that puts me to shame. It’s infuriating that Jesus says if we want to see his face we must be with the hungry, the naked, and the stranger, because quite often I’d rather look for him in the beautiful, the charming, and the talented.
It’s been a privilege to be a trustee of The Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields, because around that table and through that work I’ve been educated, challenged, and intrigued. Why are there so many Romanians sleeping outside? What does the council really want in a borough associated with such wealth and splendour? Is the environment in which you talk to a person in crisis as important as anything you say? What do you do when a person is so angry they perpetually lash out at anyone who tries to help? Is it ever appropriate to get cross with someone who’s been offered chances and not taken them? What does success look like for those for whom housing and employment is out of reach?
This Tuesday at 6pm Pam Orchard, CEO of The Connection, and Jon Kuhrt, Specialist Rough Sleeping Adviser at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, will offer a presentation and Q & A on today’s challenges and how The Connection plans to respond to them. I warmly invite you to be part of it. Homelessness is part of the soul of St Martin’s. This is an opportunity for our souls to grow.
Revd Dr Sam Wells