There is nothing I love more than arriving home, putting comfy clothes on, and relaxing on the sofa with a good cosy blanket watching a movie. Home is where I feel comfortable and, most importantly, safe. It is where I find rest and can just let go of anything that has happened that day. Home is a place to escape the outside world and have a mini sanctuary. However, what actually makes a house a home? When does it become a sanctuary or safe place?
One of the key issues we found at the Winter Night Shelter, the forerunner of our Overnight Welcome Centre (OWC), was that people returned year on year. So we asked ourselves the question: why are they not staying in accommodation and how could they be supported? The result of these questions came in the form of a new role: the Housing Settlement Officer. Glasgow City Mission employed Pam and Lorna who job-share the role. The main aim of this role is to help people feel settled in their home and see what gaps need filled. Makes sense right?!
Recently I have joined their team and we have journeyed through the housing system with the guests of the OWC. Each day is very different and involves a variety of tasks – or adventures. We can find ourselves filling out a Scottish Welfare Fund application for a guest or driving across the city dropping off food parcels. Sometimes managing both of these tasks at the same time as we work as a team. The role has evolved over the past few months as we have looked at what actually makes a house a home.
I know that many people would say that people make a home. However, in reality for many of our guests it is just them in the flat alone and this can become a very lonely place with no community or basic supplies. For them it can be a sofa, television, microwave, kettle, food parcel, or a photo for the wall that make their house a home.
We linked in with one guest who has been in the system for 20 years and has never settled in one place for a long time. 20 years. How has this happened?! However, this year we saw change and the guest settled. The complex needs team at the Glasgow HSCP have been working incredibly hard at figuring out what would work best for the individuals they are working with. The HSCP called us and explained that the guest needed things in their flat to make it feel homely. We then linked in with our friends at the Castlemilk Furniture Project who were able to supply a unit for a TV, pictures for the walls, some lamps and a mirror. When we dropped off the homely goods, the guest was delighted and was so thankful to be able to replace the cardboard box that the TV was sitting on with a proper TV unit. We returned to visit this guest and dropped off clothing from the Glasgow Street Pastors. When we arrived we were proudly shown around the flat, and it was lovely to see lamps in place and one of the photos on the wall. This is what made a house a home for this guest.
A house becomes a home because of what is in it. This may be belongings or people and we are able to play a part in that. It is heart-breaking walking into a flat that is literally empty but we do what we can, whilst bringing hope and a smile. I look forward to the day when a role like this is not required but for now we will continue to link in with people and see what we can do to keep them settled.
Isaiah 32:18 reads, ‘My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.’ I pray this over the guests we have encountered and have helped to settle in their new homes. I pray that their home will be a secure, peaceful place and a place where they will find rest. I pray that their house becomes a home and for those who are still to be settled, I pray they will be able to experience that feeling one day.
I will pray this for you and your home too.