The archbishop of Canterbury says churches can house rough sleepers and offer “social engagement” to struggling individuals and families.
Justin Welby believes C of E churches can build on what cash-strapped cuts wracked councils have had undermined by ‘austerity’.
“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,” said Welby.
Those living on the streets needed more than a place to sleep, he said. “You need to be able to cook for them. 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.”
Councils, said Welby, had 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,” he said.
At present, only around 5% of Church of England churches provided a night shelter for rough sleepers in 2017, according to a report from the CofE’s church urban fund – although support was provided in other ways, such as through donations and volunteering.
Of all C of E churches, 19% run a food bank and 8% run a debt advice service, the report said.