On any one night, more than 200 families and individuals find themselves without a permanent home, some sleeping rough, others in hostels or on sofas, across the county. Kerry Headen, the Bath Abbey Homelessness Initiative Manager works with the different agencies supporting those who are homeless in BANES and by doing so, reaches out to hundreds, if not thousands of people, daily on the Abbey's behalf.
There are real people in real need on our doorstep. They may be the Big Issue people that we walk past every day. But actually they could be the person sitting right next to you. A homeless person doesn’t always fit into a category or match a certain stereotype, and the issues, symptoms and causes of being or becoming homeless, are as varied as they are prevalent.
We continue to support projects which help people look beyond the label ‘homeless’ with all its negative associations, and ‘Think Different’, an exhibition of paintings, poetry and artwork by the homeless in Bath was held in the Abbey for the third consecutive year.
An increasing focus has been on improving access to the privately rented sector. Studies have shown that a lack of affordable accommodation, rent inflation and housing benefit cuts are fuelling homelessness, as well as making it more difficult to help people once they become homeless.
We have helped set up two housing initiatives to address this: firstly, a Tenancy Training Programme to help reduce the perceived risks landlords may have when considering homeless or benefit claimants as tenants; secondly, a pilot study with SWAN Housing offering families and individuals step-by-step guidance on how to apply for privately rented accommodation.
Another successful initiative was a new edition of the Homelessness Guide for B&NES. 3,000 copies were printed and distributed earlier this year. Feedback from agencies such as the local police, Job Centre, and NHS Walk-in Centre, shows having essential information for the homeless all in one place has enabled them to respond effectively to individuals and families who use their services.
Your donations enable the Abbey to have a dedicated member of staff who deals with homelessness in Bath. Please help us continue the essential work we are doing.
To find out what the Rector of Bath Abbey, Edward Mason, said about the Abbey's Homelessness Initiative in a recent sermon, click here.
Or you could listen to the sermon via this page. Just click on the Morning Services sermon from Sunday 23 September.