A House Built on Love: The Enterprising Team Creating Homes for the Homeless

Reviewed by:

Connor Salter, Professional Writing alumnus from Taylor University, Upland, IN.


A House Built on Love: The Enterprising Team Creating Homes for the Homeless


Ed Walker with Elizabeth Batha


Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge

Publication Date:

October 2020




224 pages


Ed Walker spent years of his life working with Tearfund, a group in Sudan working on the front line of humanitarian work. After 3 ½ years, Walker and his wife felt the distinct sense that it was time to move on to something else, and returned home to the United Kingdom. With no clear idea what they were doing next, Walker began looking around and discovered something surprising: the high number of homeless people who were ex-convicts, unable to get good housing from churches or the charity groups. Usually, these people returned to prison quite soon after they got out. Walker reluctantly entered what he worried was an impossible dream: providing affordable housing for the homeless. Started in 2010, Hope in Action has over 70 houses across the United Kingdom and has won awards from both left-wing secular newspapers and right-wing think tanks. Walker describes how Hope in Action started, and the lessons he’s learned along the way.

Walker presents a story that initially seems to take a very conventional direction. It’s about helping the homeless, it’s about finding a sustainable model for homeless housing, and about what you unexpectedly learn from the least of these as you help them. These are classic themes, which extend from stories about Mother Teresa to Henri Nouwen’s book The Return of the Prodigal Son).

What’s unexpected, is that Walker writes as someone with a prior career doing humanitarian work in Darfur—someone who didn’t expect to transition from rescuing children from child armies to housing recovering addicts. That mix of experiences proved surprisingly helpful. Walker speaks as someone with experience taking high risks who had seen great work done overseas with few resources. “How much more can Western churches do with our many resources?” he asks throughout the book.

The willingness to do the unconventional thing makes it similar to Sean Stillman’s book God’s Biker, about Christian motorcycle groups. Stillman and Walker both highlight the struggles to communicate their visions, as well as the surprising lessons learned from at-risk people they helped.

Walker also excels at refusing to give cute answers about what it takes to help at-risk people. He repeatedly argues that research and personal experience show people with criminal records and addictions need more than just parole to become healthy citizens. Social capital, having a community they are tied to, is one of the highest indicators of whether people will acclimate to regular society again. The truth that money isn’t enough, that relationship with its inherent risks is the most important factor in helping at-risk people get better, is not an easy truth to swallow. However, Walker shows this is precisely what Jesus calls us to do throughout the New Testament. He also suggests the risk may be what keeps us humble, relying on God every moment.

Stylistically, there are moments where the book could have been organized differently to make it a little bit clearer. The chapters move chronologically, but sometimes will end with Walker mentioning something that will come up soon, but it doesn’t happen until three chapters on. However, even when the book feels fragmented, it’s always compelling and the writing style always makes it clear what is being said.

A refreshingly honest, thought-provoking look at doing ministry that bucks trends but produces something meaningful.


Rating (1 to 5 stars):

5 stars

Suggested audience:

Ministry leaders or churchgoers interested in contemporary stories about homeless ministry or ministry to at-risk people groups, particularly from a non-American perspective. Also recommended for people interested in ministry that has a community component.

Christian Impact:

Walker talks unashamedly about the unusual space Hope in Action has lived in. It’s a non-profit that has generally avoided government funding so it could talk about its Christian mission, but also doesn’t require that people become Christians to receive their help. It’s a nonprofit that works with churches to get funding but isn’t afraid to point out moments when churches can be hypocritical. Walker talks a great deal about New Testament teachings to help the poor and the outsider, and considers how Jesus acted when he was around such people.

A House Built on Love: The enterprising team creating homes for the homeless



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