Advent calendar highlights plight of homeless

People are being invited to count down the days to Christmas in a slightly different way this year.

Churches have launched the interactive No Place Like Home advent calendar to highlight the issue of housing against the backdrop of the nativity story.

They want to raise awareness about the plight of people facing homelessness and poverty in the UK this Christmas.

Instead of chocolates behind each calendar window, there are reflections on the campaign's four key themes of housing, affordability, stigmatisation and the Christmas story.

People can keep up to date with the calendar by following No Place Like Home on Tumblr and Twitter.

Rudi Richardson, founder of homeless charity Streetlytes-UK, is supporting the calendar.

He said: "I have been homeless in the UK, in the States and in Germany. I was homeless for seven years.

"Homelessness starts way before you are physically homeless - there is a disconnect that is unresolved.

"You internalise those feelings and that is the problem. Homelessness is a spiritual problem too.

"I believe that the gift of hospitality is so important to the self-esteem of the homeless person. We are already broken anyway and we need to know that we are loved."

The calendar has been launched jointly by the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and the Baptist Union of Great Britain.

At the Methodist Conference in Plymouth this summer, Methodists voted to establish a group to look into policy on affordable housing, assist Circuits and Districts in the local management of housing resources, and help people who are homeless.

James North, Policy Adviser for the Methodist Church, said Britain was in the midst of a housing crisis.

"Millions of families still search for a safe, affordable home, whilst numbers of homeless people accessing services, such as those provided by Methodism's Whitechapel Mission to the Homeless, continue to rise," he said.

"Many churches provide day centres and night shelters and, following the government's spending cuts, they must maintain and increase their support. But the chronic shortage of homes is a broader issue.

"I hope this calendar inspires Churches and individuals to 'make room at the inn' and continue working to ensure that everybody has a decent home."