THE Bishop of Jarrow has used his Christmas message to highlight the issue of homelessness.
The Right Reverend Mark Bryant wants people to be aware of the number of people who are classed as homeless, but might not necessarily be sleeping rough.
Last month the South Tyneside Council carried out a Government requested “rough sleeper’s count” and found only one person to be sleeping on the street in the borough.
However, figures released by the South Tyneside Churches Key Project show that between January 2014 and June, 150 young people presented themselves to the charity as homeless.
The Bishop uses the Christmas story to show how Mary and Joseph would, in today’s age, be classed as homeless.
He said: “Mary and Joseph were not sleeping rough but they were homeless.
“Jesus was born in a stable because there was no room in the inn. That’s how the story goes. Anybody who has ever been to a school nativity knows it. One of the things I have learned over the past year is that you can be homeless without sleeping rough.
“You may be in rented accommodation. You may be in a B&B. But you are still homeless.”
Key Project chief officer Jean Burnside, says there are a large number of reasons why people find themselves without a home.
She said: “There is no doubt that homelessness among young people is increasing.
“There are a number of reasons for this: shortage of suitable accommodation for young people, the impact of welfare reforms, particularly the so-called ‘bedroom tax,’ the increase in benefits sanctions and a harsher regime.”
“Debt is another major factor, which impacts on people becoming homeless, and relationship breakdown is still the most common reason for young people having no home.”
The Bishop says he is also hoping people will now learn to understand each other more.
He added: “The Christmas story tries to say that God who made the world becomes a human being to show that every single human being is of equal and absolute worth to God.
“As Christmas and New Year approached I know, that with God’s help, I have to see what I can do to live my life believing that nobody’s life matters less than mine.”
n Voice of South Tyneside ... Page 6