“When he saw the man, he felt compassion for him…”

Published on: 1 September 2019

It has become an unavoidable fact that homelessness in the UK has grown massively since 2010. There is a housing crisis because we do not have affordable housing. Housing available for rent, let alone to buy.

If you lost your job, how long could you keep up the repayments on your mortgage or your rent? Could you afford a zero-hours contract, not knowing one week to another what your pay will be? Can you wait five weeks before you get your first benefit income?

Most people aren’t homeless because they have drug addictions, or alcohol abuse, but because a simple change happened to their circumstances and the cost of their housing was too high for them to fix the problem. There, but for the grace of God, go I.

Then once homeless, it is so hard to rehouse people, because the benefit system and the average wages do not match the average private rents. This traps people into homelessness, or into temporary accommodation (provided by councils to only those homeless people in ‘priority need’) because there are not enough social or council homes to move people to instead.

How then, as Christians, do we respond to this?

Our God tells us to “Love mercy, seek justice, and walk humbly with our God” in Micah 6:8. “Love mercy” means to look at a person on the street and not blame them for being a drug user (most people only get into drugs, or develop mental health problems, after being made homeless). Help the homeless person, regardless of why he is homeless. Give him or her a cup of coffee. A hot sandwich. A smile. A leaflet about where to go for the foodbank or a night shelter. A phone number for Shelter (0808 800 4444).

Secondly, seek justice for that person, or for homeless people overall. “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute” says Proverbs 31:8. Sign petitions on the internet. Write to your MP and councillors. Donate food items to a food bank. Volunteer somewhere.

Thirdly, walk humbly with our God. In the good Samaritan parable, Luke 10:33 says: the “Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him”. In the Greek, this actually says “his bowels exploded”! In our parlance we would say, “his heart broke”.

That is how Jesus sees you. Jesus is the Samaritan, and you are a victim of assault by illness, debt, grief, poverty, homelessness, sin. Jesus looks at you, and his heart breaks. And it’s because Jesus does this for you first, that he says “Yes, now go and do the same”. By walking humbly with our God, you can love homeless people because God has first loved us. And if you are reading this and you are homeless, know that Jesus has been homeless too, and his heart breaks with love for you.

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The Revd Fiona Haworth, assistant priest at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich city centre, shares her everyday faith journey with an emphasis on making a difference worldwide.


Fighting food poverty by using plenty

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Frugal Innovation: how to do more and better with less

Keith James looks at what we might learn from a growing informal, grassroots movement.


Offering shelter and hope in King’s Lynn

Project Co-ordinator Lucy McKitterick looks back over the first year of the King's Lynn Winter Nightshelter.


The House that shames us

After a helter-skelter, what might you next find in Norwich Cathedral? Andy Bryant tells us: the answer is a house. At first glance it might be tempting to assume that this is a rather happy dwelling, a house wrapped in multi-coloured scarves. But behind the seemingly cosy image is another story. This is a house that should shame us.


What is poverty?

Simply a lack of money to pay your way - or more extensively no access to health provision, education, safe water and housing? Or is it an emptiness of spirit or loneliness? Biddy Collyer hosted a discussion with Anna Heydon, Peter Howard and Lorie Lain-Rogers to tease out the definition of poverty in a world of plenty.


Reaching Out

It's pretty clear in almost every page of this edition of The Magazine that the consistent question is: how is it that in an era of plenty, there is yet so much poverty? And is there anything we can do about it?


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