Launch of Inter-church Housing and Homelessness Resources

The Irish Inter–Church Meeting has developed a set of resources to support churches to respond to the crisis of housing and homelessness the impact of which it states is felt across Northern Ireland in every church and community.

The resources will be launched at the Skainos Centre on the Newtownards Road, Belfast on Thursday 13th February at 10:30.

Speakers include – Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, Church of Ireland Bishop; Rev Brian Anderson, co–Chair of the Irish Inter–Church Committee and Superintendent Minister at East Belfast Mission which runs the Hosford homelessness service and personal testimony from a person who has experienced a period of homelessness.

The Inter–Church Meeting states – Homelessness and housing insecurity are having a traumatic impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

18,202 households presented as homeless to the NI Housing Executive in 2018–2019. The most common causes were:

1: Accommodation is not reasonable;

2: Sharing breakdown/family dispute;

3: The loss of rented accommodation;

4: Marital/relationship breakdown

More than 26,000 people already live in unsafe or unsuitable accommodation, including at least 6,000 children; and more than 12,500 people are officially homeless in Northern Ireland. As well as the need for practical resources, there are huge mental health implications of housing insecurity and homelessness requiring complementary supports.

While official estimates suggest Northern Ireland now needs around 7,200 homes each year, there was a 14% drop in housebuilding starts in the 2019 July–September quarter compared to the 2018 equivalent.

However this is not just the result of political decisions, or lack thereof, but also moral failings. We need to identify the causes and decisions behind the problems, and to plot ways towards a more just system where the home as a fundamental requirement for fruitful and fulfilling lives of both individuals and communities is given the priority and resources it deserves.

This will demand a willingness to look critically at ourselves as christians and church communities, as well as society as a whole and to examine whether our behaviour is consistent with our espoused values.

In order to begin this process the Irish Inter–Church Committee has developed a number of resources to equip churches and Christians to engage this issue.

They include:
– A joint statement of pastoral concern from the Irish Inter–Church Committee.
– A small group study resource which examines the meaning of home in the history of God’s interactions with his people and seeks to stimulate discussion exploring how we might therefore respond as Christians to the societal and political contexts we inhabit today.
– A liturgical resource for use in church services