Open church doors to rough sleepers, urges Archbishop of Canterbury

A rough sleeper shelters from the elements in the St George's Clocktower in Canterbury (file pic)

The recent bouts of snow and sub-zero temperatures necessarily focused people’s minds on the city’s population of rough sleepers.

Many demanded urgent action while Canterbury City Council implemented its Severe Weather Emergency Protocol, which is put into place when temperatures drop.

During the cold snaps, brought in by the so-called Beast from the East, places to sleep were available at Catching Lives’s site in Station Road East and the St Paul’s and St Thomas’s churches.

Now Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has called for churches everywhere to open their doors to the homeless.

A rough sleeper lying by the snow in Best Lane

Speaking to students at Canterbury Christ Church University, he said: “There’s a nationwide scheme where churches get together in groups of seven, and each church will take one night a week.

“It’s one of the major contributions the churches make in this country – food banks, night shelters, debt counselling, those are the three great social engagement areas.

“Councils have suffered such cuts in their spending capacity that they are really struggling to meet a whole range of needs.

“We’ve shown in the past we can do more, but they’ve got to be resourced to do it.”

According to a Church of England report, only 5% of churches provided shelter for rough sleepers in 2017.

Archbishop Justin Welby

Mr Welby added that rough sleepers require more than just a place to sleep.

“You need to be able to cook for them,” he said.

“You need to be able to make sure they’re comfortable, and warm, and safe.

“You’ve got to meet the need in a way that gives dignity to the people you are meeting the need for, and gives them security.”

When temperatures first dropped at the end of February, the Canterbury Mosque at Giles Lane also offered to take in rough sleepers.

Imam Ihsan Khan said: “They are our brothers and sisters in humanity and we should be caring for them as much as we can.”

Canterbury has two prominent homeless charities Catching Lives and Porchlight.

Both offer services to those who find themselves living on the streets. However, Catching Lives temporarily closed its open centre due to issues with alcohol and drug abuse. It reopened when temperatures dropped significantly.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here