MSPs told to eradicate homelessness for sake of children

Russell Barr
Right Rev Dr Russell Barr addresses MSPs.

MSPs have been urged to “renew” their ambition to reduce the number of homeless people in Scotland.

The challenge was directly issued by the Moderator of the General Assembly, Right Rev Dr Russell Barr, who addressed the Scottish Parliament this afternoon.

Delivering Time for Reflection, he said: “It is my judgment that at best we are managing the situation and have long lost the ambition to resolve it."

The Moderator said more must be done for the sake of children.

Dr Barr is of the opinion that the country’s leaders know how to tackle homelessness but it was questionable whether they had the will and heart to do it.

Obscene

In 1999, he established a charity called Fresh Start in Edinburgh which helps people who have been homeless turn a new tenancy into a home of their own.

Dr Barr is using his year as Moderator to highlight the scale of homelessness - a situation what he has called an “obscene” “damning indictment” on modern society.

The Edinburgh Cramond Kirk minister’s full address to MSPs is as follows.

As Moderator it is my privilege to bring you the greetings, prayers and good wishes of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

I am glad to do so, and not because it is the polite or expected thing for the Moderator to do.

Rather I want to assure this Parliament of the Church of Scotland’s very genuine interest, concern and support.

With so many important judgments to be made, and with so many difficult decisions to be taken, we are very aware of the responsibility resting in this place.

Week by week in congregations across Scotland we pray for you.

We pray that blessed with God’s gifts of insight and wisdom, the judgments you make and the decisions you take will be characterised by compassion, hospitality, generosity, a concern for people who are struggling, and a desire to promote the common good.

Through the Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office, we have been engaged in the Meet your MSP project.

So far about 60 meetings have been arranged, the idea behind it being a simple one – to create change in our communities it is important for church people to get to know and build relationships with the change makers.

Lunch clubs, dementia care groups, children’s activities, food banks, environmental projects, mental health – our congregations are actively involved in all the things you care about, speak about, and make decisions about.

Serenity and wisdom

Earlier in February, the Parliament hosted an event to celebrate the project and to encourage congregations and their local MSPs to continue to build good relationships with one another, and to seek the health and well-being of the communities we serve.

As Moderator I will continue to highlight the scandal of homelessness in Scotland, the fact that despite our many efforts the numbers of people applying and being registered as homeless are not much better than they were 20 plus years ago, including as of September 2016 over 17,000 pre and school aged children.

It is my judgment that at best we are managing the situation and have long lost the ambition to resolve it.

For the sake of these children we need to renew that ambition.

Let me finish where I began, with the assurance of the Church of Scotland’s support and prayers.

May God grant you the serenity to accept the things you cannot change, courage to change the things you can, and wisdom to know the difference.