You might have heard it said in recent years that we are living through a “loneliness epidemic”. According to research done by the British Red Cross, more than 9 million people in the UK suffer from loneliness. Whether you’re surrounded by people or longing for friends, it can affect us all at some point in our lives. But for those who experience sustained periods of acute loneliness, it can have a huge impact. Research shows that “lacking social connections is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day” (Holt-Lunstad, 2015)
The homeless charity Crisis carried out a survey of over 500 homeless services users across the UK in 2015, and it “reveals the disproportionate levels of loneliness they experience and how the impact of isolation can undermine their attempts to move on from homelessness”. This report claims that six out of 10 (61%/307) homeless service users classify as ‘lonely’, three times the proportion of over 52s in the UK, a group most associated with being most lonely in society. Over a third (37%/187) of service users reported ‘often’ feeling isolated and lacking companionship (35%/179).
Our mission statement at the London Jesus Centre is “restoring dignity, creating community”. We believe that everyone deserves to be valued, and, in the same way as we seek to meet peoples’ basic physical needs (food, showers, etc), we also want to meet their social needs. For the last few years, a group of volunteers have been coming to the Jesus Centre and working with Jon-Jon Hilton, our drop-in manager, to create the “Community Feast” events. They wanted to create “an environment where community would flourish – where the homeless would be treated not as clients but as neighbours, not as problems to be solved but as friends to be celebrated”.
“There is singing, laughter, (the occasional crying) piano playing, storytelling, listening and a lot of learning and re-learning how to create community amidst the chaos of life.” (quote from the crowdfunding page).
The Community Feast is one answer to the wider problem of loneliness we see in our society. If you would like to support this initiative, they are currently crowdfunding to fund the feasts. Please give whatever you can to bring a bit of humanity back into peoples’ lives.