Hastings self-published author Roger Nuttall is a nurse co-ordinator for Hastings Homeless Service. Coming Home For Good, as the back page blurb explains, charts his personal journey from teenage rebellion and a period of penniless itinerancy in the USA through to his eventual return to work with the homeless in Britain. The ‘Coming Home’ in the title and the ‘Homelessness’ in the subtitle Personal Reflections On Homelessness reference how in his early twenties ‘everything changed when he unexpectedly found Christian faith’.

In his preface the author states this book to be ‘…not simply an account of my own journey home, but is interwoven with reflections on life, faith and homelessness…’ As a work openly declaring a Born Again Christian message, this is not a book I would ordinarily have chosen to read. From a community interest perspective, however, I did so with an open mind.

Part one, ‘A Homeless Soul’, takes up two fifths of the volume and concentrates on the author’s dysfunctional relationship with his father as he grows up to discover sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Although interesting, it’s a familiar story already written about many times before. Nuttall tells us how at school he viewed Christians as ‘religious nutters’ and as we read on it is easy to foresee a Damascene moment ahead, swiftly followed by an identification with the Prodigal Son Parable.

My hope was to find some new perspective on compassion within the human condition that is non-dependent on the ideas of ‘religion’, and in particular the concept of Jesus Christ as our only saviour. When, on p90, Nuttall announces, ‘It’s not my style to Bible-bash – but…’ and then goes on to quote Mathew: 6. 25-33 from the New Living Translation of the Bible, I realised that this book was primarily aimed, not at the average reader, but at the already Born Again or those who may be interested in becoming Born Again.

Throughout the book there are constant mentions of songs Nuttall grew up with, along with other cultural nods to film, literature and popular psychology. The way these are used, however, as mirrors reflecting perceived Christian messages within them, I found unconvincing and at times irritating. The further on one reads, the more evangelical the work becomes: ‘…and into the last 30 years as a reformed, reforming person, it could be said that Jesus has been the author of this story too.’

Coming Home For Good describes some common aspects of living through street homelessness: alcohol and drug use as a coping mechanism; vulnerability to violence, robbery, sexual exploitation or rape, and potential early death; raiding skips for food, soup kitchens and random acts of kindness from strangers. It is no secret that some (but by no means all) who offer food, shelter, help or support to the homeless are motivated by a religious faith or belief. This book is more about one man’s Christian calling than about the experience of street homelessness or the political and socio-economic reasons for it. It didn’t give me any new insight into the homelessness problem, or indeed Christianity, but Nuttall’s work with the vulnerable of our community is clearly admirable.

Coming Home For Good is available from Amazon at £8.

To find out more about Hastings Homeless Service or to volunteer: www.sja.org.uk/hastings-homeless

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