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Lost and Found: faith and spirituality in the lives of homeless people

 

Carwyn Gravell

 

Researched and published by Lemos&Crane working with The Connection at St Martin’s, supported by The St John Southworth Fund on behalf of the Archdiocese of Westminster, among other funders.

The free download link is at the end of this page.

 

Lost and Found: faith and spirituality in the lives of homeless people is the latest publication from Lemos&Crane building on its pioneering work over the last fifteen years that has brought fresh insight into the needs and aspirations of homeless and vulnerable people, and new guidance and inspiration for hundreds of service providers on how to work in more person-centred ways with clients – see also the highly-influential Dreams Deferred, Steadying the Ladder and The Meaning of Money. 

 

The issue

Britain is commonly described as a secular society. Open expression of faith in public and professional life is largely frowned upon. Yet religion continues to give many people in their private lives significant psychological, social and emotional benefits.

For many of the long-term homeless people interviewed for Lost and Found (the first ever study of its kind involving 75 service users from seven London-based homelessness agencies) religious belief and spiritual practice can help them come to terms with a past characterised by profound loss, enhance the present where time can hang heavy, and create a meaningful future built on hope, fellowship and purpose.

Despite these benefits however, homeless people are hardly ever asked about faith and spirituality by providers of support, be these faith-based or ‘secular’, let alone encouraged where they have faith to attend places of worship, or to explore their spiritual insights and curiosities more generally.

Why this silence on such a powerful source of personal strength and support?

 

The insight

Lost and Found describes the ideological dominance of secular orthodoxy and scientific materialism in mainstream service provision for homeless people and how religion is regarded by many in the sector, including senior commissioners, with atheist views as a subject to be avoided – too personal and intrusive for the client, too time-consuming and difficult to handle for the support worker, and coming with the risk of being misunderstood as an attempt to proselytise.

Interviews with long-term homeless people reveal however that service providers have little to fear in talking with their clients about faith and spirituality. On the contrary, the majority of people interviewed welcomed the discussions as a validation of their identity as individuals in their own right not just service users with problems. Seventy per cent of people interviewed described themselves as religious or spiritual.  Some expressed profound spiritual insights stemming from their homeless experience – emphasising what they had found as much as what they had lost.

 

Influencing practice

Lost and Found sets out practical recommendations that will be read by hundreds of providers and commissioners on how faith and spirituality can play a part in the range of services offered to homeless people, including:

 

Endorsements

Lost and Found brings to our attention ground breaking research into the faith, spirituality and profound insights of homeless people. It is a timely reminder to everyone working to alleviate the plight of the destitute that those whom we serve are made in the image and likeness of God. Lost and Found shows that faith is not a problem to be solved, but a gift to be discovered.” The Archbishop of Westminster, The Most Revd. Vincent Nichols

 

Lost and Found raises timely and important questions about the fundamental nature of support for long-term homeless people and how faith and spirituality should play a part in a more person-centred approach within the sector. It is required and challenging reading for anyone involved in commissioning or providing services, regardless of personal beliefs or attitude towards religion.” Colin Glover, Chief Executive, The Connection at St Martin’s

 

“ This concise and balanced report persuasively argues that all mainstream providers and commissioners – not just faith-based organisations – should respect the importance of faith and spirituality for homeless service, not further marginalise them by dismissing it, and treat it is a chance for common cause, and a strength to build on.” Mark Woodruff, The Monument Trust

 

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