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Christian mission charities decry 'scandalous' rise of deaths of the homeless

by Tola Mbakwe

According to new figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) last week, there were an estimated 726 deaths of homeless people in England and Wales registered in 2018. It represents a 22 per cent increase, which is the largest rise since the figures began in 2013.

The ONS said a key driver of the change is the number of deaths related to drug poisonings, which are up by 55 per cent.

Rev Mike Long, Minister of Notting Hill Methodist Church and Chair of Shelter's Commission, called 'A Vision for Social Housing', said: "These deaths represent the tragic tip of the iceberg in terms of the suffering that homelessness causes.

"Hundreds of thousands of people are classed as homeless in Britain today, having to cope with 'temporary' accommodation that in many cases is harmful to physical and mental health. This makes no economic sense nor is it morally acceptable."

Roger Clark, CEO of West London Mission (WLM), which has supported thousands of homeless and vulnerable people since 1887, called the issue "an absolute scandal".

He added: "Those that have passed must not be forgotten for whom they were and their legacy must be action."

At WLM, a range of services prevent homelessness through helping people to make changes in their lives.

"At present we are focused on getting our centre at Seymour Place, Marylebone refurbished and relaunched to give people a route off the street which isn't paying the ultimate price," Clark said.

In Greater Manchester, a Christian program called 'A Bed Every Night' aims to prevent homelessness due to termination of tenancies.

Rev Ian Rutherford, City Centre Minister at Methodist Central Hall, Manchester said: "We aid recovery by helping individuals to work towards independence and ultimately reconnecting with their potential.

"This is achieved by giving, for example, opportunities for employment, volunteering, training and education."

Paul Morrison, policy adviser for the Joint Public Issues Team, commended the Church for its role in tackling homelessness but said it can't do it alone and the government should step up.

"It is fantastic that churches are responding to the increasing need, but in the long term we need radical policy change to ensure that family's incomes and rents can meet," he said.

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