With no roof beneath which to lay their heads and a child imminent; a familiar theme of Advent, traditionally remembered on the third Sunday of Advent. What of those who are not remembered though?
The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
In December as the ice grips, the reminder is more stark of those left outside what most of us find natural – left in what you may observe to be the natural condition of mankind. It is not just those on the street but those insecure, uncertain wanderers on the face of the land. One is begging friends for a sofa to sleep on; one is weeping in a council housing office; one is in the fag-ash reek of a labourers’ dosshouse; one is in a cheap flat and dying of it; one is dulled into selling herself. They must not be forgotten.
Churches then have reminded their congregations of the forgotten and then ask what can be done about it.
They know what they can do about it. We know how to save people from homelessness and from “continual feare, and danger of violent death”. It is this: look after yourself and your wife or husband; work hard to earn and pay your way; care for your children and prepare to provide for them when you cannot; teach your children to be self-reliant as you have. That will keep you from that condition and keep your children from it too. Without that, it would not be a few lost souls in the frozen street but the whole generation. Love, work, nurture: looking around the congregation, everyone there could say with justification “all these have I observed from my youth.” Do they need to understand any more?
Dickens had many a sharp observation of those who neglect their own families in pursuit of lofty, charitable goals, the more distant the better. It is not virtue but distraction from the immediate duty to family, because family is the first, primary way to prevent poverty and homelessness. No law howsoever well-intentioned can be so effective.
Therefore, before reformers even think about laws and bureaucracies and taxes, they must realise that the solution (for almost everyone) is what every family knows, and that is the most valuable assistance, which must not be damaged in the rush to help the few who remain unsupported.
For those outside the ‘family commonwealth’, they are vulnerable, and if the state takes on its role as carer for the uncared for, they are a chief concern for this charity, without forgetting those supported by themselves.
The vulnerable then fall to dependency of force, not love. This dependency is terrible. It may provide comfort for immediate needs, but honest reformers should seek to lift their subjects from dependency also, unless in their minds they want a sub-class of serfs controlled by the state. The state has no love, and little motivation to improve the crumbs they provide. The lad who died lately in a mildewed apartment was in a housing association provision, not a flat let by a private landlord who has a motivation to keep his property from moulding away.
It is a noble thing to care for the unfortunate, and in particular for the homeless, and you may ask how things might be improved. However, it is not just the few – the potential number of homeless in this land is sixty-eight million. We are only ever a generation away from reverting to the Stone Age, in which mankind lived from 95% of our age on Earth, as Syrians have found. To care for those who may be homeless, first realise that your own comfort is unnatural: praise God for these blessings and look after your children so that they are blessed too.
- Housing: courting injustice – 1
- Is the Housing Court dead?
- Maddening the priests
- Catching the Parson
- Gnawing inadequacy
- By Tom Wright:
- The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
- By John Milton:
- Symon Patrick (1626-1707) and His Contribution to the Post-1660 Restored Church of England by the Rev Dr Nicholas Fisher
- By Thomas Hobbes in the Civil War and Restoration era:
- The Rule of Law by Tom Bingham (former senior Lord of Appeal)
- Trials of the State: Law and the Decline of Politics by Jonathan Sumption (former Justice of the Supreme Court)
- The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken
- Montesquieu: The Spirit of the Laws