50th home for Hope into Action
A Christian charity which provides homes for the most vulnerable in society in partnership with local churches has reached a new milestone
Hope into Action is opening its 50th home this week, in World Homeless Week, meaning 120 vulnerable people are sleeping in its homes every night. In total it has now partnered with 46 churches to open them.
The idea is that the church, or a church member, releases some of their investment capacity to buy a house. Once occupied, the church provides community, non-judgemental relationships, mentoring, practical support and prayer.
It results in people seeing their lives transformed, said founder and chief executive Ed Walker.
‘We have shown, through consistently capturing our results, that churches can have a transformative effect on people in a vulnerable situation by surrounding them with a richness of relationships and non-judgmental love.
‘Lots of services offer somewhere to sleep and a professional – very few offer a home and a community of people to accept you as you are.’ He said that 82 per cent of tenants have improved relations with their families last year; 81 per cent of those with previous drug/alcohol misuse have reduced their intake; and 89 per cent of former prisoners did not re-offend.
One resident commented, 'HIA helped save my life, not only housing me when I needed it, but their continued support after I left. They have loved me at my worst and fought for me continually and encouraged me endlessly.’
The charity, which has also been shortlisted for a Guardian Public Service Award, began seven years ago when Ed used an inheritance to open a home in partnership with his church, Bretton Baptist, in Peterborough.
Formerly of Tearfund, Ed had returned to England to be with his young family in 2010. He was so moved by the story of a homeless man in his local park that he was called to do something about it.
The original home had a heart for men coming out of prison, but since then the charity has homes for a wide range of ‘homeless’: people in recovery from addiction, people sleeping on the streets, women and children fleeing domestic violence, people coming out of rehab, former prostitutes, refugees, and those suffering mental health issues, survivors of human and sex trafficking.
Hope into Action supports 16 homes in Peterborough with the rest across 14 towns or cities. The plan is to be in 20 cities by 2020.
Ed explained it has been achieved by using Christian wealth, a hitherto, ‘largely, untapped seam of wealth for the Kingdom of God.’
‘Many Christians have savings, wealth which they want to preserve,’ he said.
‘There is no widely accepted theology or Christian teaching on what to do with this. Therefore billions of pounds of Christian wealth is stored in banks or shares and thereby shared with the rich.
‘We want to undam that money and share it with the poor. We want to see a revolution in how Christians think about and use their wealth so it becomes normal to have some of your wealth shared with the poor by investing in a house for the homeless.’
‘We have shown that churches have the latent wealth, which can be invested to help the homeless… because what they really need is a home - there is a reason we don’t term them: hostel-less, or ‘shelter-less’ or even ‘house-less’.' So far the charity has raised more than £8m to buy the homes.
The Hope into Action model has been commended by Steve Clifford, General Secretary of the Evangelical Alliance, who said, ‘The way out of homelessness is actually through relationships.
‘What home can offer is family. What family can offer is relationships. And when you put that together with the local church, I would suggest it’s a dynamic of heaven that is at work there.’
A celebration service marking the opening of the 50th home takes place on Saturday, 14 October at Kingsgate Church, Peterborough. A sponsored sleepout will follow the service to raise money for the charity and to enable people to sample a small taste of what it might be like to be homeless.