For the last eight months, a number of rough sleepers have set up camp in the churchyard of All Saints’ Church, Northampton. During this time, the church has established a relationship with the community – allowing them to stay within the grounds of the church, inviting them to services, and condemning those who have shouted abusive remarks towards those sleeping in the churchyard.
At the same time the church has facilitated a more collaborative approach from agencies in the town, including Northampton Borough Council, Northamptonshire Police and Northampton Hope Centre, with a view to working with rough sleepers and helping them into permanent accommodation. This collaborative process has been able to begin with the All Saints’ homeless community, with the aim of providing all in the churchyard with a home.
Father Oliver Coss, Rector of All Saints’ Church, Northampton, said: “Over the last couple of weeks, All Saints’ Church has held a series of meetings aimed at using the summer months to drive forward existing work to move rough sleepers from the streets to permanent accommodation.
“Sleeping in a churchyard must not become an alternative to accepting help and support from statutory, NGO, or voluntary sector organisations aimed at getting homeless people into housing and sustaining them there. We hold to our conviction that rough sleepers are, by definition, acutely vulnerable and that they should be housed if we are to fight mortality on our streets. Northampton has seen too many deaths on, or because of, our streets: it is time to stem the tide.”
The Bishop of Brixworth, the Rt Revd John Holbrook, said: “I am pleased to commend the outstanding work that Fr Oliver Coss and All Saints’ Church are doing alongside other agencies in support of homeless people in Northampton. It is a real demonstration of Christian love in action.”
Northampton Borough Council, Northampton Hope Centre and Churches Together in Northampton have issued a joint statement in which they have set out their shared approach to helping those who are sleeping rough.
Homelessness is growing within Northampton, so this unified approach is a positive step to enrich the lives of those who – for whatever reason – have found themselves on the streets. As a Diocese, we hold to Jesus’ words that he came to bring “life in all its fullness”. This approach of helping rough sleepers to find accommodation is one such way in which we can show the hope and love of Christ to all.