Book review: No Fixed Abode

No Fixed Abode by Maeve McClenaghan is published this month. It tells the stories of many people who have been pushed into homelessness and who have died or lost friends – and it challenges us all to make this a turning point.

Tony sat down in the garden of his former home in Lowestoft, and froze to death. He was 57.

Fiona was found under a bridge in Leeds, where she had been sleeping. She was 46.

Alan was 81 when he died in hospital, having been sleeping rough outside a shopping centre in Norwich.

Hamid was 55 when he died in a hotel room, having been forced by the cold out of the car where he had been living. He had been academically brilliant as a teenager, and had applied in the late 1990s to be a research assistant to Professor Stephen Hawking.

Cardon was 74 when he died in a tent, where he lay undiscovered for some time.

Jayne died in a doorway in Stafford, aged 53.

We could continue this way, line by line, person by person, year after year. All over the country, all too often, people who have become homeless die prematurely and avoidably.

Often there are individual moments where opportunities were missed. Police did not respond to the first call about Tony, for instance; a health appointment Jayne requested was accidentally not booked. Yet there are always bigger structural issues and attitudes at play, such as poverty; the insufficient support for people moving into adulthood after traumatic childhoods; the national housing shortage; a dehumanising public rhetoric around homelessness; severe cuts to vital services through the ‘austerity’ programme; and a reluctance by councils to carry out Safeguarding Adult Reviews after the death of a homeless person.

Until recently, the full scale of the crisis was not known. How many people died while homeless in 2010? How did that compare to two years, 10 years, 20 years earlier? What were the recurring factors, causes or lessons that could be learned? Nobody knew – until, in December 2018, the Office for National Statistics published the first official data showing how many people were dying homeless. They recorded a figure of 597 in England and Wales for 2017 and, analysing historical data, calculated that figure had likely risen by 24% in five years.

The news made headlines all around the country. For the first time, the scale of the crisis was clear and No Fixed Abode is the story behind the story.

Author Maeve McClenaghan, a journalist at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, began exploring homelessness when it was visibly rising. She spoke to relatives of people who had died but was surprised to find nobody recorded the total figures, so the Bureau and many journalists around the country began sharing information from their own communities.

Ultimately, their data helped the ONS find a viable methodology to record annual figures.

No Fixed Abode is a vital work. It charts the journalistic tenacity that helped change the system and tells the stories of some of those who have died. It also shines light on the compassionate work of countless small community projects, and brings powerful first-person insight from people such as David.

David was about to take his own life on a park bench, when he was spotted and stopped by a park officer, who listened, helped, and in doing so changed everything. David went on to become an artist, and in autumn 2018, when the Bureau’s initial figures were revealed, he spoke on Channel 4 News.

“We have this fear to talk to homeless people, we seem to dehumanise them.”David Tovey, a campaigner who used to be homeless, and Crisis Policy Director Matthew Downie respond to new figures which suggest that at least 449 homeless people have died in the UK in the last year. pic.twitter.com/6vkl3jqIAj— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) October 9, 2018

David Tovey, a campaigner who used to be homeless, and Crisis Policy Director Matthew Downie respond to new figures which suggest that at least 449 homeless people have died in the UK in the last year. pic.twitter.com/6vkl3jqIAj

— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) October 9, 2018

No Fixed Abode was researched and written before the coronavirus pandemic, but the manner in which it exacerbated inequalities is addressed in the preface.

People who are homeless have circumstances that make them more vulnerable to the pandemic, it notes. Homeless people already had higher mortality rates and were far more likely to have respiratory problems, mental health issues or substance abuse issues.

And yet…

The pandemic also changed society’s ideas of what is possible. By Government order, thousands of people were accommodated without question, as services focused on one non-negotiable end goal. McClenaghan writes: “As pleased as I was to see it happen, I couldn’t help but wonder: should it really have taken a global pandemic to get us here?”

Can such a can-do attitude last? Can we continue to achieve the unthinkable, by focusing on the end goal and not getting bogged down in process? 

The pandemic will sweep millions into or towards poverty, but it has also brought communities together, challenged what we as a society prioritise, and enabled us to see clearly how many lifelines and safety rails have been removed over the years.

McClenaghan writes: “For many, the effect of years of austerity policies and tightened belts was invisible… But this pandemic has taught us that the invisible catches up with us and, when it does, we can either bury our heads in the sand or face up to where we have come to….  I hope the frustrations and injustices laid out in this book are a thing of the past. But unless we stare them down, understand how they happened and why, we will never learn how to build back better.”

  • No Fixed Abode by Maeve McClenaghan is published by Pan Macmillan on September 17, and is available to order here.

The Collective, Episode 2 – Community responses

Sheffield Poverty Update, September 2020

SPARK newsletter, autumn 2020

Book review: No Fixed Abode

3 key ways we will be challenging poverty this autumn: Join us

Church Action on Poverty North East 2020 AGM, 25 September

Let’s walk upon the water

A walk in the park

Look after each other

Are you a sun worshipper of follower?

We’re all going on a summer holiday

Food insecurity and social isolation in Sheffield

Love and unity in a UK food desert

Sheffield Poverty Update August 2020

The Collective, Episode 2 – Community responses

Book review: No Fixed Abode

3 key ways we will be challenging poverty this autumn: Join us

Let’s walk upon the water

Self-Reliant Group facilitator, Laura Walton, considers the seaside this bank holiday weekend.

Such is the advancement of science and technology that we can control and direct so much of our everyday lives in a way that our parents were never able to do.
 
But although forecasts can be made of the weather for tomorrow, next week even beyond, we still cannot control it. We can affect it without a doubt, through misuse and abuse of the earth’s resources but as yet there is no red button to press for a sunny option for the bank holiday weekend. So we tentatively make plans for a walk, a seaside trip or a lakeside picnic and then wait, poised for action or disappointment.
 
But if we were thinking of taking kids with us or teens, there would only be excitement and anticipation without the concern of the weather. With first day back looming next week, a day at the seaside would be a guaranteed joy….always! Shorts, a raincoat and a mask…that’s all that’s needed.
 
While you huddle with the extra jumpers, fleeces, brollies, tinfoil wrapped sandwiches and tea flask, that wide expanse of nothingness except sand will entertain and entrance, even in the rain. The huge skies and a horizon as wide as the world can capture their imagination and fill them with awe, hope and a realisation of their place in the world and the mark they can make on it.
 
The seascape with gentle lapping or surging and crashing waves tells of its power and might in the immensity of noise and vastness. It sets free the hair in bobbles and sets free something that children do so unselfconsciously, that squeal and scream of joy.
 
They then return dishevelled, full, bright eyed and wet, eager for the promise of chips, 2p slots and candy floss on the way home.
 
Even in the rain. Especially in the wind and rain. A day at the seaside will always be exhilarating and awe inspiring.
 
So many Christian songs use imagery of the sea to describe God’s amazing love. The waves crashing over us are his love covering us and protecting us, his power is always for us, never against us. At those points where land and sea meet and the horizon is wider than anything we’ve ever seen in our lives, we cannot fail to be moved by its beauty, its power and majesty. It can be overwhelming, overpowering and makes us so aware of how small we really are, how weak and insignificant.
 
Yet in a boat on the Galilean Sea, Jesus stood in a boat amidst a churning and crashing sea, surrounded by his friends cowering in fear and ordered the waters to be still, and they were. His authority as the Son of God protected his friends and as a result they put their lives in his hands.
 
Whether we got to go to the beach or not this bank holiday, we have all faced something huge and overwhelming in our lives which has caused us to feel powerless and incapable and left us cowering, heads down. Jesus had the authority from his Father to order the storm and waves to be still. Jesus offers us his hand to face with us our fears and our situations which seem to overwhelm us. He invites us to put our trust in him and walk upon the waters. Let’s do just that.
Find out more about Self-Reliant Groups: http://www.church-poverty.org.uk/srg

The Collective, Episode 2 – Community responses

Sheffield Poverty Update, September 2020

SPARK newsletter, autumn 2020

Book review: No Fixed Abode

3 key ways we will be challenging poverty this autumn: Join us

Church Action on Poverty North East 2020 AGM, 25 September

The Collective, Episode 2 – Community responses

Book review: No Fixed Abode

3 key ways we will be challenging poverty this autumn: Join us

A walk in the park

Self-Reliant Group facilitator, Laura Walton, celebrates the joys of going for a walk in a park

A walk in the park. A phrase often used when something is relatively easy, leisurely and requiring little effort. A throwaway comment at times, dismissing some activity which could have been far worse. Not a phrase used extensively except for in the last few months when it literally has been a lifeline for many.

Can you imagine what our lives would be like without our local parks? Again restricted to public areas in which to remind ourselves what friends are and what community looks like, our parks are yet again, for many of us, our real outside worlds.
 
Inner city life has many advantages up until the point when your liberty is abruptly halted. Then we are left with patchwork skies and last night’s takeaways underfoot and next door’s fall outs. And thankfully our local parks.

Parks were often a lifeline for us as young parents, desperate for adult company and for somewhere for all the noise of little kids to disperse to. They have been our lifeline again through lockdown, offering us space and air, free from yesterday’s cooking and today’s need of cleaning and the everyday tensions of being under someone’s feet.
And again….no more living room and garden bench pour outs, comparing and sharing intimacies with close friends. But the local park is there, always available and open to all walks of life.
 
Local parks are as familiar as favourite bed socks, loved and well used, if at times abused and taken for granted. They are part of our lives, our histories, our culture. They reconnect us to each other and to the rest of yesteryear and will be there as our lives change and we notice things for the first time, right under our noses when we had always been looking somewhere else.

So if we haven’t already, let’s start reconnecting with our local area through our parks especially if lockdown has meant shielding. Or if you’re aware that September will bring many changes to your family’s routine and you need to be ready. Or you want to re-engage with life gently and let your guard down and learn to take back your place in society.

Let’s go for that walk in the park…..let’s be safe but let’s re-engage with the people of our postcode, rather than the statistics. Let’s be part of the outside world, not just seeing it hurry past and let’s enjoy sharing that space, those cultures, those histories and those hopeful futures.

A Prayer…

Heavenly Father, help us to be thankful for the simple things in our lives that we often take for granted, even abuse. Thank you for our communities and our local areas and the services that people have kept going for us. Thank you for the places where we can be community and be part of a background that is dependable and available and comforting and reassuring.
We thank you for your faithfulness to us Lord, your presence with us through your Spirit and your assurance that we never walk alone. May that be a walk that builds confidence in those who have been isolated and alone. May it be a walk of wisdom and strength to those who are changing routines and making new plans. May it be a walk that blesses and restores us all.
In Jesus’s name we pray.

Amen
Find out more about Self-Reliant Groups: http://www.church-poverty.org.uk/srg

The Collective, Episode 2 – Community responses

Sheffield Poverty Update, September 2020

SPARK newsletter, autumn 2020

Book review: No Fixed Abode

3 key ways we will be challenging poverty this autumn: Join us

Church Action on Poverty North East 2020 AGM, 25 September

The Collective, Episode 2 – Community responses

Book review: No Fixed Abode

3 key ways we will be challenging poverty this autumn: Join us

Look after each other

Self-Reliant Group facilitator, Laura Walton, reflects on the importance of looking after each other.

Sign reading Look After Each Other
Despite what the rest of the country thinks, we Mancunians are following the rules. On a huge billboard in amongst the skyscrapers of the Mancunian way is the instruction to….. Look after each other. It is clear, simple and achievable and with a further positive outcome guaranteed; people will look after us. It has encouraged me to look out for examples of this happening if I go out. I’ve seen people wiping trolleys after they’ve shopped, boxes of free apples on pavements in my neighbourhood, people sharing bin space and giving way even around puddles.
 
One lady in a Self Reliant Group in Old Trafford has been writing to old friends who she no longer sees, to encourage them. Occasionally a relative may phone on behalf of the elderly Mother or Aunt to thank her and to say how her kind words brightened their day. This SRG member is 96 years old and looks after the money for her group. She has been shielding for nearly 5 months and likens the whole unhappy affair to life towards the end of the war except for in the war you knew your enemy. She admits that her mental health has declined quite dramatically.
 
A morning tea was planned for the group in the communal garden where they live. Unfortunately the local lockdown prevented the tea in the garden and instead three of the ladies met at the front of the building, with very limited shade. Our elderly letter writer was very keen to be part of the tea and cake brigade and to spend time with people. She sat for as long as she could in the group before needing to move into the shade. Her 2 friends, both in their 80s lent her their arms and supported her to stand and turn and walk and then to sit down again. All 3 were momentarily out of breath but so pleased that they had been able to help their dear friend.
 
Before Lockdown she would have refused help. In June last year, when the group went on a canal boat day trip she had to walk across a wooden plank to get to dry land, with her 2 wooden sticks. And she did so with no complaints.
 
Look after each other.
 
We have seen this so many times within our self reliant group community. People genuinely care for each other and are prepared to go the extra mile for others. They encourage one another and are endlessly resourceful despite limited means, ability and now limited mobility. In getting to know their groups and each other’s needs, people learn to live altruistically and to live with more of a purpose and so have determination and resilience and courage.
 
For well over 2000 years Christian believers have tried to obey the teaching of Jesus to love one another. Tried and many times failed. But are always ready to try again. For many people during the last few months, having that purpose to life in Lockdown has kept them positive and through prayer they have been given the strength and the energy to persevere.
 
So Mr. Andy Burnham, we will be looking after each other as that’s just what we do and who we are as SRG members. And if that becomes difficult and we become tired and drained, then we know how to ask our Heavenly Father for more strength and wisdom to know how best to do it.
Find out more about Self-Reliant Groups: http://www.church-poverty.org.uk/srg 

The Collective, Episode 2 – Community responses

Sheffield Poverty Update, September 2020

SPARK newsletter, autumn 2020

Book review: No Fixed Abode

3 key ways we will be challenging poverty this autumn: Join us

Church Action on Poverty North East 2020 AGM, 25 September

The Collective, Episode 2 – Community responses

Book review: No Fixed Abode

3 key ways we will be challenging poverty this autumn: Join us

Are you a sun worshipper of follower?

Self-Reliant Group facilitator, Laura Walton, is inspired by a sunflower.

sunflower
A lone sunflower stands tall in my garden. It has survived neglect, vicious attack by grubs, being buffeted by strong winds and lashed at repeatedly by the cold July rain. Yet it has survived. It faces the sun, its source of growth and resilience and from which it takes its name. An inadequately undersized bamboo stick supports most of its body but not the upper section of its graceful neck and beautiful face, which is left untethered and free to follow and draw strength from the sometimes elusive sun. Or free to be snapped at by sudden angry gusts.
 
But I want to see it when I wash my pots. I want to turn its pot to face my window and be cheered by its face first thing in the morning when full of sleep and restless dreams, I fill my kettle. But then how long before it loses its brilliance, its petals lose their vitality and the flower begins to blend in with the fading beauty of the suburban garden?
 
And so it is with the Christian faith. For many of us through Lockdown, Church has been online, a lifeline to some, a data impossibility for others and a technical nightmare for more than just a few. For some, Lockdown has and still is a time of disconnection from Christian families. A time of experiencing alternative church services all over the country, the world but belonging to none. A time of losing vitality, fading and being turned away from the one who maintains our health and encourages our growth.
 
We know that God never turns away from us, no matter what we’ve done or not done. We know he always gives us freedom to lead our own lives and to choose to follow him and be sustained by him. He never forces, frightens or intimidates. He invites and he waits patiently for us to put our lives before him and then to form that loving, everlasting relationship which guides and provides for us and restores us in beauty and in strength.
 
So I will not turn the pot. I will enjoy the sunflower in its connection to the sun where it is flourishes. And I will ask God to restore my strength and my vitality in Him and choose to be connected to my Maker and follow him through these ever changing days.
Find out more about Self-Reliant Groups: http://www.church-poverty.org.uk/srg 

The Collective, Episode 2 – Community responses

Sheffield Poverty Update, September 2020

SPARK newsletter, autumn 2020

Book review: No Fixed Abode

3 key ways we will be challenging poverty this autumn: Join us

Church Action on Poverty North East 2020 AGM, 25 September

The Collective, Episode 2 – Community responses

Book review: No Fixed Abode

3 key ways we will be challenging poverty this autumn: Join us

We’re all going on a summer holiday

Self-reliant group facilitator, Laura Walton, writes about how to have fun this summer, whatever the weather.

“We’re all going on a summer holiday
No more working for a week or two
Fun and laughter on our Summer holiday
No more worries for me or you…..”
 
And it goes on. Only for most of us we’re not comfortable going anywhere, or we would have been only it got cancelled, or quarantine rules ruled out that week in the sun, or the money simply ran out. Our children will have slogged through over a term and a half of online school, or school courtesy of Mum, or Dad or another very valuable person and they deserve a treat and a well earned rest.
Those on furlough will have experienced that end of term euphoria, last day before a holiday feeling and it may already have faded as the weeks have passed. Some of us face so much uncertainty about the future that paying to go and sleep somewhere else whilst carrying those worries around is out of the question.
 
So what can be done to mark the summer if not the summer holiday? Manchester’s rain as ever doesn’t fill us with much hope for some days out.
It is daunting especially for families. We desperately want to give our kids some fun after all they’ve been through. But fun doesn’t need to cost money. Fun is simple activities injected with positive attitude, agreeing to look silly and a willingness to laugh loud and long.
 
In our SRG Brew this week we were thinking about family challenges, inside and outside and cooking challenges. Pizza making, star gazing, dressing up and mud pies, sometimes the old games are still the best. We needn’t feel anxious about the “summer holiday” at home. We can share ideas and try out new things. And as long as we free ourselves up from other demands instead of trying to fit activities into a non summer timetable, we can be confident that fun will be enjoyed by all.
 
We do have enough time in the day for having fun. What sort of a Father would God be if we weren’t encouraged to have fun and enjoy what is all around us and with those we care for?
 
Laughter is a gift from God. It helps you cope with the sadness of everyday life. Laughing just makes you feel better and more relaxed…..ever tried laughing when your whole body is tense? Painful!
 
“Blessed are you who weep now for you will laugh.” Luke 6:21
This line is part of a much longer passage in the book of Luke in the Bible which identifies the ethic behind living a life for God. It is full of his promises and gives the follower comfort in their low times and reassurance and hope for the future. Don’t we all need that? It takes us through the tears into the laughter.
So as we welcome the rain this summer, splash each other in the puddles, shiver with our wet patches then warm up with hot chocolates at home, know that our Father in heaven is laughing with us.
Find out more about Self-Reliant Groups: http://www.church-poverty.org.uk/srg .

The Collective, Episode 2 – Community responses

Sheffield Poverty Update, September 2020

SPARK newsletter, autumn 2020

Book review: No Fixed Abode

3 key ways we will be challenging poverty this autumn: Join us

Church Action on Poverty North East 2020 AGM, 25 September

The Collective, Episode 2 – Community responses

Book review: No Fixed Abode

3 key ways we will be challenging poverty this autumn: Join us

Food insecurity and social isolation in Sheffield

Physical distancing presents problems for food banks, says Charlotte Killeya (a trustee at Parson Cross Initiative and Emergency Food Co-ordination Officer at Voluntary Action Sheffield).

Our local group in Sheffield

 f you walked into the church on a Friday before the Covid-19 crisis, it was always busy. 

Volunteers at Parson Cross Initiative would start early: setting up the social café, organising the food stall deliveries from Fareshare and a local greengrocer, sorting food ready to make up emergency food parcels before an afternoon of welcoming people and offering them support. 

During the afternoon there was always plenty of food to eat and people would sit together and talk. It was rarely quiet. The volunteers I work alongside were amongst it all and they were there to listen. The conversations they and I had may have begun with why people needed support for that particular week, but would often go onto talking about things that had happened weeks and months before which had led people to visiting us. 

As Covid-19 hit, many food banks like our own have simply not been able to operate as before. Distressingly, just as record numbers of adults and children are turning to the charity sector to help provide them with food, the social, face-to-face aspect of our work has had to cease or dramatically reduce. 

Recently, a national coalition of anti-poverty charities including the Trussell Trust and the Independent Food Bank Network have reported record increases in the number of people needing support.       

The Trussell Trust saw an 89% increase in the need for emergency food parcels during April 2020 compared with the same period last year; the Independent Food Aid Network saw a 175% increase for the same period

There is a deep concern that due to the lack of the social aspects of what charities and food banks provide, people are increasingly isolated. During the crisis, the safest option has been to deliver food parcels to people’s doorsteps or give them out at the doors of buildings, ensuring people physically distance themselves from one another. But handing a food parcel to someone will only help so far – and food banks are acutely aware of this. 

As Jackie Butcher, co-ordinator of Grace Food Bank and co-chair of the Sheffield Food Bank Network, says, providing a food parcel is only part of the story.

“We don’t just hand out food parcels – we build relationships”.

For Jackie, the need for a food parcel is “the presenting issue”. A critical role of food banks is to support and signpost people to other agencies and organisations who can help, such as Citizens Advice or Shelter.

Nicola White and Susan Vinall of Fir Vale Food Bank tell a similar story. For them,

“food is a way of bringing people together.”

Before Covid-19, their community meals sat alongside the food bank and were an important part of building relationships. 

“Often people don’t open up straight away. It takes time to work through what might be happening and what support they need

This social aspect of what the team at Fir Vale do helps people to get to know one another and feel less isolated. It’s never been about “just about receiving a food parcel.” 

When Vin was first referred to a food bank last year he explained that alongside the parcel he received, he got so much more support. A Citizens Advice adviser helped him with his benefits and budgeting, and volunteers spent time getting to know him and making him

“feel part of things I’ve got to know so many local people. I want to help people in my community because I know what it’s like to go to a food bank.”

Terry, who helps at a Sheffield food bank, has at times needed food support himself. He believes that the social side of what the food bank offered is just as important as the food.

It gave me the time and the chance to talk to people. That’s important, especially if you are on your own. Sometimes you look fine on the outside, but you aren’t on the inside, and you need someone to talk it through with.” 

Terry explains that out of those conversations, you find out about the skills and talents that people have.

“We have all sorts of different groups like gardening, art and music. We find out what people are interested in and encourage them to join or help them find a group nearby. At the end of the day, it’s about valuing people and building friendships.” 

For Susan and Nicola at Fir Vale Food Bank, the devastating impact of Covid-19 has been that

“the social aspect of our work was the first thing to go and will likely be the last thing we can put in place.”

Like many charities, the team have worked hard in trying to maintain contact with people they support through phone calls and emails. 

Across the city we have seen things like online coffee mornings, quizzes and befriending helplines, and arts and crafts materials being delivered to people as ways of staying connected to people. But Susan and Nicola are concerned for people who are falling through the cracks.

As Ben Pearson from Church Action on Poverty highlights,

“many of the individuals I work alongside have become more socially isolated during Covid-19, whether that’s because a local group has had to close or they’re digitally excluded so they can’t participate in online activity… [The] vital connections that have been lost have had a significant impact [on their] mental health and wellbeing.” 

The impact of Covid-19 and personal experiences springing from it will take a long time to work through. Food banks, charities and community groups will continue to find ways of connecting with people and supporting them. We will continue to campaign on the reasons why people need their support in the first place, what policymakers should be doing to address poverty, and endeavour to share peoples’ experiences in an empowering, honest and non-judgemental way. 

In all of this, we must never lose sight of the fact that food insecurity and social isolation often go hand in hand – and that the emergency food parcel is only ever part of the story. 


This article first appeared in ‘Poverty Update’, the newsletter of our local group in Sheffield.

The Collective, Episode 2 – Community responses

Sheffield Poverty Update, September 2020

SPARK newsletter, autumn 2020

Book review: No Fixed Abode

3 key ways we will be challenging poverty this autumn: Join us

Church Action on Poverty North East 2020 AGM, 25 September

Let’s walk upon the water

A walk in the park

Look after each other

Are you a sun worshipper of follower?

We’re all going on a summer holiday

Food insecurity and social isolation in Sheffield

Love and unity in a UK food desert

Sheffield Poverty Update August 2020

Vacancy: Your Local Pantry Scottish Development Worker

Vacancy: Challenge Poverty Week Intern

A Fair and Just Future for Cornwall

The Collective, Episode 2 – Community responses

Book review: No Fixed Abode

3 key ways we will be challenging poverty this autumn: Join us

Love and unity in a UK food desert

Our latest podcast episode hears how community pantries have responded to the pandemic. Hit the play button below to listen.

The Collective, Episode 2 – Community responses

Sheffield Poverty Update, September 2020

SPARK newsletter, autumn 2020

Book review: No Fixed Abode

3 key ways we will be challenging poverty this autumn: Join us

Church Action on Poverty North East 2020 AGM, 25 September

The Collective, Episode 2 – Community responses

Book review: No Fixed Abode

3 key ways we will be challenging poverty this autumn: Join us

How one estate pulled together and how covid could change it forever

We must all look out for one another, to ensure nobody is cut adrift.

We continue to hear heartening stories of how communities across the country are pulling together. The video below tells the story of one of our oldest partners, the Cedarwood Trust in North Shields.

 

The project usually operates a range of projects from its community centre on the Meadowell estate. But since lockdown, regulars, neighbours, staff and volunteers have been coming together to ensure nobody in the community is cut adrift.

Watch the video above to hear first-hand from local residents Jean, Henry, Adam, Lindsey, Lynne, Andrew and Dorothy, as well as the staff.

The team have been delivering meals, making phone calls, sourcing spare baby supplies or equipment, and holding cherished doorstep conversations. Wayne Dobson, chief executive at Cedarwood, says the experience of lockdown will change their approach forever. He says there is a tremendous community spirit on the estate, and says:
We cannot just be custodians of the building. We need to be out in the community and that’s one of the things we are going to do differently when this is all over – we are going to continue the community outreach.  

The Collective, Episode 2 – Community responses

Sheffield Poverty Update, September 2020

SPARK newsletter, autumn 2020

Book review: No Fixed Abode

3 key ways we will be challenging poverty this autumn: Join us

Church Action on Poverty North East 2020 AGM, 25 September

The Collective, Episode 2 – Community responses

Book review: No Fixed Abode

3 key ways we will be challenging poverty this autumn: Join us

A place to call home

Self-Reliant Group facilitator, Laura Walton, remembers the struggles facing those seeking asylum in this country.

A shielding friend visited my back garden this week and even if it had been a bit wild after all the rain, she would have been equally as delighted to be there. She has large windows in her flat and grassy area outside but that was everyone else’s sanctuary so therefore could not be hers. She had a quick coffee and a biscuit but to her it was a taste of that freedom that we are now used to and which will keep her going until shielding people are released.
 
She, like so many others is waiting for her final release papers, permission to come and go and meet with others, enter people’s houses and ultimately to return home. Her home has been many things over the last few months; her classroom, her church, her supermarket, her gym, her social life, her counselling room and her prison. She has always been safe there, if frustrated, lonely and at times fed up and then lately despondent and cheerless. But her home has been and remains her safe place and is hers.
 
We know not everyone can say that about the place they live in.
 
The Red Cross amongst other organisations has continued to offer care, support and practical help to people without homes or safe places to stay. Many people in the asylum seeking process have been living in hotels through lockdown but are now waiting nervously to hear that they will be asked to leave. For them their personal situations within a Covid-19 recovery phase is still very precarious. For many who are new to the country, to the language, the customs and the systems, and who have come out of traumatic and often life threatening circumstances, their sanctuary is about to be terminated.
 
Through lockdown they have had the stability and assurance of a bed for every night, even if the address was still carried around on a scrap of paper. Most have appreciated meal times and a few the luxury of a chosen particular bar of soap. Being in contact with their families overseas has been a luxury many have had to do without.
 
And so they are waiting, waiting to hear about losing the only stability in their lives right now, waiting to hear from lawyers, from the Home Office, even for texts that will give them some idea of what lies ahead now for them.
 
While we have been waiting desperately for the go ahead to go….and come back and go again etc etc, they are waiting and about to lose their place of safety and a room that was just their own.
 
We are so used to the words, easing and relaxing when related to the upheaval of the last few months. Even those words sound like the opening up of our lives again and a future of opportunities and choices. Let’s spare a thought or even better, say a prayer for those people seeking asylum in this country. Let’s pray especially for those members in Self Reliant Groups here in Manchester who are in the process and have been stuck there for a very long time. Let’s pray that their waiting will soon come to an end. That in losing their hotel room or room in a house or someone’s sofa or a tent space, they will gain a more permanent place that they can begin to call home and begin to make decisions to direct their own lives.
 
Isaiah 40 verse 31
But those who keep waiting for the Lord will renew their strength. Then they’ll soar on wings like eagles; they’ll run and not grow weary; they’ll walk and not grow faint.
Find out more about Self-Reliant Groups: http://www.church-poverty.org.uk/srg .

The Collective, Episode 2 – Community responses

Sheffield Poverty Update, September 2020

SPARK newsletter, autumn 2020

Book review: No Fixed Abode

3 key ways we will be challenging poverty this autumn: Join us

Church Action on Poverty North East 2020 AGM, 25 September

The Collective, Episode 2 – Community responses

Book review: No Fixed Abode

3 key ways we will be challenging poverty this autumn: Join us