Putting Hope into Action to help the homeless
7 Nov 2019
Ed Walker (1994) returned to The Perse to give a passionate 42 lecture about the inspiring work of his charity Hope into Action (HIA) in helping homeless people get back on their feet.
HIA won the housing category at the Guardian Public Service Awards in 2017 for its work, which sees the charity find investors linked to a church to buy a house. The investors retain ownership but lease the houses to HIA, which charges affordable rents to previously homeless tenants and maintains the properties. Church volunteers provide tenants with support and friendship while HIA staff offer regular help with benefits and contacting other agencies.
Having served as an aid worker in Africa, Ed explained how he had settled in Peterborough with his family and it was in his new home city that he had been moved to establish HIA in 2010.
Ed told students how one day, while at the playground with his children, he had begun talking to a stranger sat on a bench who had just been released from prison. Ed outlined how he set about trying to help the man find a roof, only for him to be turned down by hostels due to his age and being an ex-offender.
Running into such barriers, Ed recounted how he wanted to help the man and others like him have another chance, so he used an inheritance to help buy a property to house two homeless tenants.
As a Christian, he felt churches and their congregations could do more to help the homeless in practical ways such as this.
He said: “Churches are full of people with social capital and relational richness, so I thought ‘what would happen if they could help give people a home?’” Churches can then befriend the tenants and empower them.”
Ed explained how HIA now has 75 homes across the country serving 250 tenants, with the backing of its 65 church partners. He added that 88% of those helped had maintained their tenancies, 86% had not re-offended and 90% had improved or repaired nuclear family relations.
He added that while HIA would help anyone from any background who has found themselves on the streets, he stressed that they needed to show they wanted to change their situation, such as those recovering from addiction or coming out of prison.
Ed said: “We ask if they really want this house and want to engage with us and make these life-changing decisions. We listen to our instinct and our gut and sometimes we get it wrong, but our statistics prove we’re doing something right.”
Hear Ed talk more about how HIA aims to help the homeless below.