Spring is upon us with crocuses and daffodils and lambs bringing the promise of new beginnings – and Lent with a renewed focus on reflection and the chance to turn again to God. For me this is especially relevant this year as I prepare to hand over the baton of leading Housing Justice and embark on a new phase of my life. So I am writing this my final letter to you with mixed feelings. In many ways the situation for people experiencing or threatened with homelessness is worse now than it was when I joined Housing Justice in 2003. The numbers of people sleeping rough continue to rise and despite the Government’s good intentions there is no silver bullet that will bring the housing crisis to an end. So our work is needed more than ever.

And yet there are many things that Housing Justice has achieved in the last 14 years of which we can be proud. Our work with Winter Night Shelters has grown from a forum for five London night shelters to a network of more than 70, an established toolkit to support the development of new night shelters and a respected Quality Mark with 13 night shelters now graded as Excellent. Our Faith in Affordable Housing project has grown from an online guide for church property folk to the provision of bricks and mortar for people who need homes. In London we have 28 destitute asylum seekers staying with volunteer hosts and we have provided accommodation for 50 people like this in the year since the project began. And even though we no longer run a mentoring and befriending service ourselves we are regularly training and supporting others to set up new schemes in their communities. Meanwhile on the advocacy front we are speaking in churches and to other groups giving radio and TV interviews and writing articles about Christian action on homelessness, as well as tweeting and Facebooking. We are a voice for Church concerns in the homelessness and housing sectors as well as with national and local government.

But my best memories will always be the times when I have been lucky enough to see the change that takes place between a first meeting on the street and then, after a few months of support, seeing someone settled in their own home. Even better is meeting someone as a volunteer who the year before was a night shelter guest.

However, none of this could have happened without you, our loyal supporters, your prayers and your donations. At Housing Justice we concentrate on the work that cannot be funded by the Government, helping people who have fallen through the net, are unable to access state support or who need something more than services commissioned by Local Authorities can provide. We also don’t receive large sums from the denominations. So we, and the people we help, depend on the gifts of individuals, donations from Religious Orders and collections from parishes and congregations.

Please, will you include the work of Housing Justice and all those experiencing homelessness and in housing need in your Lenten prayers, and consider making a gift to support our vital work going forward.

With every good wish and blessing

Yours sincerely

Alison Gelder