Over 50 Croydon residents have congregated outside their council building to perform a nativity as a call for affordable housing in the borough.
The Croydon Citizens knocked on the door of Croydon Council to ask “is there any room in the inn?”, and sang housing-themed carols.
The group re-enacted the Christmas story outside of the building calling for a community land trust to deal with the housing crisis.
A community land trust is community-led housing, set up and run by ordinary people and often ensures that the housing is much more affordable.
The Bishop of Croydon, the Right Reverend Johnathan Clarke was one of the organisers at the event.
Dressed as a shepherd, he told talkRADIO: “The Council made a commitment quite a while ago to find a community land trust. They are still working on it but we want to make sure that they know this is an urgent issue.
“This is not something that can be done when everything else has been sorted out. It is actually really important and it keeps on being important now because there are people who don’t have proper housing and they need it.
“We are coming up to Christmas and part of the Christmas story is about Jesus and his parents not having anywhere to stay. It makes that connection.
“Most of the people here are representing churches in North Croydon and as Christians we see homelessness as being a problem for us as people of faith.
“It is not just a political issue, it is also about people having the dignity and security they need in order to live proper human lives. It is part of what we stand for.”
'Breaking my heart'
The Bishop of Croydon, the Right Reverend Johnathan Clarke dressed as a shepherd
Genevieve Brown, from the Parish of St Luke’s, described the lack of affordable housing as “heart-breaking”, adding that it was splitting up her family.
“It is important to me because it is splitting my family up. I have lived in Croydon since 1962 – my family have.
“I have got brothers and sisters, cousins and aunties in Croydon. For the first time, we are seeing our family having to move out of Croydon just to be able to afford a home and put a roof over their heads.
“That means they are isolated and they don’t have the support that family usually gives them.
“It has broken up the family and it is breaking my heart actually to see this happening.
“The sooner we get affordable housing so that they don’t have to be in that position, or at least no further members of our family are going to be in that position.”
'Nowhere to go'
Croydon Council’s Deputy Leader Alison Butler, and cabinet member for homes and gateway services, represented the 'innkeeper' in the nativity.
Addressing the crowd, she added: “As we are all together and we have got a nativity scene today and you are talking about the housing crisis in Croydon, I think we all need to take a minute to remember just how serious that housing crisis is.
“Tonight there will be people sleeping on the streets in Croydon because they have got nowhere to go.
“The Council is working very hard with them and a number of organisations – Crisis in particular – to ensure that they do have somewhere to go.
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“We have a massive housing waiting list and we have over 2000 households in temporary accommodation.
“We need to take a moment of thought to think about the one thousand children in our borough, who will be living in emergency accommodation and won’t have somewhere to call home.
“That is the size of the crisis that we are looking at.”
She added: “We are pleased to work with you and we will continue to work with you. We are very sure in the next few years that we will actually see something in the ground and rising up.
“Then you will be able to have your nativity scene outside of there.”