"The last thing homeless people need is a bed," Baptist Minister Steve Chalke said this week. Rev Chalke, who founded the Oasis Trust, was speaking at St Paul's church centre in Marylebone, north London, at the launch of the resource pack for Homelessness Sunday, organised by CHAS, the Catholic Housing Aid Society (CHAS) next January 27. He explained : "The issue isn't to do with having a bed, but about somewhere where you feel you belong. That is what home is - somewhere where you are loved, can relax, find peace, solitude - where you are wanted. We need beds, of course, but a home is so much more - that is why this Homelessness Sunday initiative is so important." He said: "The church is the biggest mobiliser of volunteers in Great Britain, it is already involved in prevention, and has a unique and vital role to play across our country". But, he said it was important for churches to work in partnership with government, rather than replacing public services. Ashley Horsey, head of the Government's new Bed and Breakfast Unit, said it was necessary to tackle rising numbers of people in Bed and Breakfast (B&B) accommodation, both in the short and long term. New government figures out this week, he said, showed that the total number of households in bed and breakfast accommodation at the end of September was 12,290. This represents a rise of 950 households (8 per cent) from June 2001 and a rise of 24 per cent since September 2000. Mr Horsey said: "Living in B&B is not good for a healthy society. It is immensely damaging - morally, socially and financially. We are picking up too many broken lives and that is far more expensive than preventing the breakages taking place in the first place". Churches can play an important role in helping provide that sense of belonging and community that makes a 'home' for people who have experienced hardship and disrupted lives. The theme of this year's Homelessness Sunday - 'Spotlight on Homelessness' - reflects the need to focus not just on street homelessness, but on less visible areas of housing shortage such as people staying with friends, in poor housing or temporary accommodation. For more information visit the CHAS website on: www.chasnational.org.uk
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