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Making 'Homes not Houses' a Priority: Bristol’s Chaplain for Housing

In February 2021, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York released the ‘Coming Home’ report, calling the Church of England to more intentionally engage with the housing crisis that is affecting many cities in the UK, including Bristol, which currently has 16,000 people on the housing waiting list.

Out of the work of this Commission, Bishop Guli Francis-Dehqani was appointed as the UK’s first Bishop to Housing and I’m delighted to have been appointed earlier this year as the first Chaplain for Housing based in Bristol Diocese. 

The “Coming Home” report called for a national plan to tackle the housing crisis and made recommendations that the Church, government and others can take at this critical time when so many people are struggling with inadequate homes. 

The report says,

“For too long, the debate over how to solve the housing crisis has been a numbers game: in particular, how many new houses a year will be enough. What has been missing is a positive vision of what good housing looks like.”

It highlights five core values that set this vision – a good home should be sustainable, safe, stable, sociable and satisfying. In short, not just a house but a home where people can flourish.

Archbishop Justin Welby said,

“These values derive from our Christian story, though we believe they will resonate with people of all faiths and of none.” 

One of the recommendations of the Coming Home report was that a Bishop of Housing would oversee the implementation of the Commission, and Bristol Diocese has made the courageous decision to support the outcomes of the Commission by enabling my role as Chaplain for Housing.

I became passionate about this when, as during my theological training at Trinity College Bristol, I started to study the terrible impact the housing crisis is having on children and people in Bristol and beyond, and I began to question the role that the Church has to play.

In this exciting position I will have the opportunity to work with the Diocese, Bristol churches of any denomination and those providing housing to tackle housing inequality in our city. I will do this in partnership with the Bristol Housing Festival and it’s exciting to see churches in Bristol already taking up the challenge to use their land or resources to help.

The Church is uniquely positioned to give, both in its widespread geographical positioning and in its core mandate to ‘love God and love our neighbour.’ 

It has a history of providing housing for those who needed it most and I am pleased to see a growing movement in the wider church community to not only provide night shelters and food banks, but to also engage with the systemic and wider housing inequalities in our city. 

As with any new vision, this will take courage on behalf of these church communities and, as the Chaplain for Housing, I look forward to supporting them to encourage this vision to become a reality so that we can build homes, not just houses, for the people of Bristol and beyond. 

Posted: February 2022