14/03/2017 12:05 GMT | Updated 15/03/2018 05:12 GMT

My Visit To A Place Called Hope


A few days ago I had the privilege of spending an afternoon at a place that was both informative and inspiring.

Appropriately enough, they call it the Hope Centre.

It is situated in some modest rooms at Acton Baptist Church in London and the people involved are modest by nature too; but their hearts are huge and the work that goes on there should be a source of great pride.

The Hope Centre is tackling the devastating problem of homelessness through community action. The service there offers direct practical help, backed up with longer-term advice, guidance and mentoring to help people find and keep a roof over their head.

It is a living, working example of many of the issues and potential solutions detailed in CSJ's recent policy report on homelessness.

The report highlights the sharp increase in rough sleeping by over 130 per cent in six years, while both state and voluntary responses to homelessness are too often predicated by a response to crisis instead of prevention.

The study focuses on the need to break cycles. The cycles that lead individuals to return to the streets when attempts to house them fail through lack of support. The cycles that mean people experiencing homelessness in childhood are far more likely to be homeless as adults.

The Hope Centre focuses on the need to break cycles too. The initiative was set up by a wonderful woman called Amanda Cadogan who saw that local support for homeless people was lacking and wanted to make a difference.

As she and her team showed me around the centre, Amanda told me that she felt that there were a lot of unrecognised gaps in the system which allowed individuals to slip through the safety net.

For those in crisis and on the streets the centre provides the refuge and the practical assistance they need. They can shower, get clean clothes and have some food.

But Amanda spoke of the need to work with people in the community before they get to the homeless stage - and also to continue helping them after they have been housed. In other words, to mend those gaps in the safety net.

It can be a lot to do with educating them, she said, and just "putting them in a property and leaving them to get on with things" without support was wrong.

Many of them would struggle with budgeting or self-care and end up on the streets again. Such people need to be shown where they are going wrong, not left to make the same mistakes again.

Amanda also spoke about the need for discipline and rules. If people did not want help and were a danger to society then she does not hesitate to call the police because there are consequences to actions. If people have a choice and they choose crime then they should pay and not society.

I believe in personal responsibility, not only for one's own actions but for the well-being of those in need. I am passionate about tackling poverty through championing community-led local solutions rather than relying on the state to always step in.

Government tends to respond by throwing money indiscriminately at a crisis. Some of this money will help those in need, but may not always be well targeted. Communities and volunteers, by contrast, know their own resources and their local areas and can devote care and attention to preventing the problem in the first place. They focus on helping people help themselves.

I was deeply moved by my visit. So much so that I could not help hugging one man as he told me about his own experiences and how the Hope Centre gave him hope and courage.

And that is the centre's real ethos. So that homelessness does not mean hopelessness.

You can find the CSJ report on Homelessness here -