BY Amanda Connelly | February 2 2018 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

1-HOMELESS

Don’t be afraid to talk to the homeless, Catholics urged

Scottish Church’s social justice group criticises crisis driven by ‘austerity’

Catholics have been urged to ‘not be fearful’ of talking to and having coffee with the cold and lonely on our streets, as the Scottish Church’s leading social justice group condemned the rising homelessness figures.

“The causes and experiences of those who are homeless can be complex, and alongside those who are rough sleeping in our cities we must remember the hidden homeless who are sofa-surfing, and the increase in rural homelessness,” Danny Sweeney of Justice and Peace Scotland, said. “While the parties in government must be properly held to account we all need to recognise that it is through cooperation that we can best serve the common good and find solutions to these challenges.

“Certainly we can all acknowledge the inherent dignity of our neighbours when we meet them and not be ­fearful of having a conversation or sharing a coffee with those who are cold or lonely on our streets.”

 

Desperate statistics

The comments come after both lay and religious groups marked Homelessness Sunday, a Christian ecumenical event, on January 28.

Justice and Peace are the Scottish commission of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Integral Human Development, which focuses on social justice, peacemaking, migrants and human rights. Mr Sweeney, Justice and Peace’s social justice coordinator, noted ‘desperate’ homelessness statistics across both the UK and Scotland— which illustrate a growing problem—and he said that research shows that many Scots are scared to speak to the homeless.

“The statistics for homelessness make desperate reading,” he said. “Rough sleeping is up 143 per cent across the UK since 2010—73 per cent in the last three years—and there has been a 74 per cent increase in young people categorised as homeless in the same period.

“We are in the midst of a crisis, driven by the austerity agenda of the [UK] Government.

“Here in Scotland, despite several years of progress, recent months have seen numbers increase with just under 18,000 applications for assistance, and over 6,000 children living in temporary accommodation.

“When we hear that two-thirds of Scots would never stop and speak to a homeless person, and that two-fifths of us are ‘fearful’ of doing so, we isolate ourselves and drive further to the margins of our society those we are called to draw closer to in solidarity.”

 

Faith in action

Mr Sweeney also praised the work of the many Catholic groups working to help the homeless and vulnerable individuals across the country, calling it a ‘great way to give expression to our Faith.’

“Many Catholics, along with believers of other denominations, faiths, and none, are active in putting themselves at the service of those society risks failing, offering their time and energy to provide food, shelter, to advocate for change, and accompanying with friendship and support those in need,” he said. “Groups with a distinctive Catholic identity, including the Society of St Vincent de Paul and the Wayside Club work alongside others, including the Simon Community Scotland, the Rock Trust (Edinburgh), the Cyrenians, and Glasgow City Mission to name a few.

Parishes across Scotland took part in Homelessness Sunday, including those at St John Ogilvie Church in Edinburgh.

Parishioners prayed for those who are homeless and those fighting to curb the issue of homelessness at their weekend Masses and raised money for Christian group Scottish Churches Housing Action.

– amanda@sconews.co.uk

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