The Archbishop of Canterbury on Wednesday joined faith leaders to condemn the “tragedy” of homelessness.
The Most Reverend Justin Welby, the Church of England’s most senior bishop, urged a “global end to homelessness”. The Independent’s festive appeal to raise vital funds for a 24-hour drop-in shelter in London offers support for women, some of the most at-risk people living on the streets.
Twenty representatives of major British faith groups, which include Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists, Quakers and Zoroastrians, are all now calling for action to tackle the crisis.
In a statement supporting our Homeless Appeal, the 20 representatives described their plea as a “non-partisan, cross-communal global campaign” to fight the blight of homelessness on people’s lives. They also backed the World’s Big Sleep Out, an event being held in Trafalgar Square in association with our appeal.
Thousands in London and in 49 other cities worldwide will lie on the concrete in sleeping bags and on cardboard boxes to highlight the struggle rough sleepers endure nightly. Nearly 150 people were known to have died while sleeping on the streets of London last year. The sleep out is supported by celebrities including Helen Mirren.
The archbishop said: “Homelessness is a tragedy that ought to belong in the past. Everyone deserves access to safe and stable housing; it is vital for human dignity, equality and justice. Through the work of the Commission on Housing, Church and Community, we are considering what else we could and should be doing, as a Church and as a nation, to build communities in which all members flourish.
“We support those across the world participating in the World’s Big Sleep Out.”
The 20 signatories of the group statement included Rabbi David Mason of the Muswell Hill Synagogue, Talat Shaikh, chair of the Muslim Community and Education Centre, Dr Deesha Chadha, interfaith committee member for Hindu Forum of Britain, Jasvir Singh, chair of City Sikhs Network, Fred Ashmore of the London Quakers, Ven Bogoda Seelawimala, head of London Buddhist Vihara, and Malcolm Deboo, president of the Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe.
In their statement, the group said: “As people of faith in London from eight different communities who care deeply about the welfare of the whole of society, we applaud The Independent’s help our homeless campaign and write in support of the World’s Big Sleep Out. In our capital city, there are 170,000 homeless people, as well as more than 1,200 people sleeping rough. A recent report showed that someone becomes street homeless every two hours.
“Behind the big statistics lie complicated human stories for every individual. They need our help to redress this social injustice.”
The Bishop of London, the Right Reverend Dame Sarah Mullally, also gave her support, adding: “None of the thousands of homeless in greater London should face the proposition of not knowing where they might sleep that night, but they do and there is no excuse. I call on all across London to join its call to end global homelessness by taking part in the World’s Big Sleep Out on 7 December.”
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