The Homeless Fund: Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby joins faith leaders calling for action on homelessness

‘Homelessness is a tragedy that ought to belong in the past,’ he says

Backing our campaign: the Church of England’s most senior bishop
Backing our campaign: the Church of England’s most senior bishop

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.

Nearly 150 people are known to have died while sleeping rough last year (Getty)

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 Right Reverend Dame Sarah Mullally gave her support (Jeremy Selwyn)

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.”

London faith leaders backing our appeal

1. Mustafa Field OBE – director, Faiths Forum for London

2. Zaki Cooper – co-chair, Indian Jewish Association

3. Sayed Yousif Al Khoei OBE – director, Al Khoei Foundation

4. Fred Ashmore – representative of London Quakers 

5. The Reverend Anthony Ball, Canon of Westminster, Westminster Abbey

6. Reverend Margaret Cave – Church of England team rector, East Greenwich Team Ministry and chair of trustees, Greenwich Winter Night Shelter

7. Dr Deesha Chadha – committee member, Hindu Forum of Britain and co-chair of Faiths Forum for London

8. Don De Silva – University Buddhist chaplain and former UNEP official

9. Malcolm Deboo – president, Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe 

10. Reverend Jon Dal Din – director, Westminster Interfaith

11. Rabbi Herschel Gluck OBE – director, Ohr Avrohom – Light of Abraham

12. Rajnish Kashyap – director, Hindu Council UK 

13. Leonie Lewis MBE – consultant, Cities Faith & Community Forum 

14. Rabbi David Mason – Muswell Hill Synagogue and executive member, Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue

15. Khizar Mohammad – media and communications manager, East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre 

16. Reverend Mark Poulson – Bishop of London’s Office 

17. Venerable Bogoda Seelawimala – head, London Buddhist Vihara

18. Talat Shaikh – trustee and chair, Muslim Community and Education Centre

19. Dr Natubhai Shah MBE – founder chair/CEO, Jain Network 

20. Jasvir Singh OBE – director, City Sikhs Network

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