The second episode of The Collective, exploring Community responses to the crisis, is now online. Watch the full episode here:

The Collective is an hour of inspiring stories of collective action to promote dignity, agency and power.

In this episode we heard how communities in different parts of the country have been coming together to tackle the challenges posed by the Covid crisis.

Penny, who is based in Byker in Newcastle told us about how the mutual aid group there allowed members of the community to support each other, and how they’ve maintained a sense of pride and community spirit throughout the crisis.

From the North-East to the South West, Andrew told us about the Cornwall Independent Poverty Forum’s report, A Fair and Just Future for Cornwall, and how communities can speak truth to power.

Purple Shoots, who work with Self-Reliant Groups in South Wales and the south west of England, came up with a really creative way of building a sense of community between the groups this summer, even though they couldn’t meet in person – a virtual village show.

Gemma is a grassroots member of the Manchester Poverty Truth Commission. She talked about how they have been speaking truth to power and shared the Commission’s reflections about what we as a society should and should not accept as ‘normal’.

And finally, Matt Sowerby told us about the poetry anthology he has been helping put together called Same Boat. This is a collection of poems recording different people’s experiences during lockdown.

The next episode of The Collective will be in October on Zoom and our Facebook page. It will explore issues surrounding disabilities and poverty.

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

Click on the right to download the latest issue of Poverty Update, the newsletter of our local group in Sheffield.

Sheffield Poverty Update, September 2020

SPARK newsletter, autumn 2020

Running a Good Society conversation

Click on the right to download the autumn 2020 issue of SPARK, our newsletter for supporters of Church Action on Poverty.

Sheffield Poverty Update, September 2020

SPARK newsletter, autumn 2020

Running a Good Society conversation

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

This autumn, Church Action on Poverty will be working harder than ever to challenge poverty, and we hope you’re up for joining us in this urgent task.

By our director, Niall Cooper.

We will be joining with others on three national campaigns to speak truth to power over the next two months.  With others, we will be making the case for urgent Government action to ensure that the millions of families who have been swept into poverty and debt as a result of Covid 19 are offered a lifeline to keep them afloat through the rough seas ahead.

Quite literally, millions of people have been swept into poverty, unemployment and debt as a direct result of the economic impact of Covid 19. People who were previously able to keep their head above water are now in severe difficulty. Others, who had been just staying afloat, now face being overwhelmed by circumstances entirely beyond their control.

1: Rishi Sunak can provide struggling families with a lifeline

Amongst all the other measures the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has taken over the past months, few have been more important to struggling families than the extra £20 a week on the basic rate of Universal Credit.

This has been a lifeline for many families as they’ve struggled to get through the coronavirus storm.  However, it is due to end in April 2021, whipping the vital lifeline away. In October, the Chancellor has a chance to do the right thing and announce that hard pressed families will be able to keep the extra £20 a week on a permanent basis. 

2: Marcus Rashford: Speaking truth to power on child food poverty

As the schools re-open this week, there’s much more to be done to ensure children are able to focus on their studies – rather than having to worry about where their next meal is coming from.

It’s this goal – ending child food poverty in Britain – which Manchester United and England footballer, Marcus Rashford, now has in his sights.  Marcus himself grew up in poverty in Wythenshawe in south Manchester, and knew as a teenager what it was to go without food.  That is what is motivating him to speak truth to power

“Food poverty is contributing to social unrest,” he wrote, reflecting on a series of recent meetings with families in need of the same support he counted on as a child. He described “watching a young boy keeping it together whilst his mother sobbed alongside him, feeling like he has to step up to protect his family and alleviate some of that worry. He was nine years old.”

“I know that feeling,” he wrote. “I remember the sound of my mum crying herself to sleep to this day, having worked a 14-hour shift, unsure how she was going to make ends meet. That was my reality.”

Marcus is backing calls on the Chancellor, to fund the implementation of three key policy recommendations from the national food strategy, a Government-commissioned report highlighting huge economic and health inequalities, which will be aggravated by the coronavirus crisis. These include:

  • extending free school meals to all families in receipt of Universal Credit
  • rolling out the Holiday food and activities programme, designed to tackle the growing problem of ‘holiday hunger’ nationwide.

3: Challenge Poverty Week

The first ever Challenge Poverty Week in England and Wales will run from October 12th to 18th, modelled on the successful Challenge Poverty Week which has been running in Scotland for the past seven years.

Challenge Poverty Week will provide an opportunity to celebrate the work that a wide range of organisations are doing to challenge poverty across the country It aims to:

  • Raise voices in unison against poverty and show that we all want to live in a more just and compassionate country.  
  • Show what is already being done at community level to challenge and alleviate poverty.
  • Build awareness and support for long term solutions that focus on enhancing the dignity and agency of people in poverty themselves.  
  • Change the conversation around poverty and help end the stigma. 

The website will be launched in the next few days, but for now please follow our twitter feed, facebook page and instagram account.

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

Has there been a faith response to COVID-19? Find out what's been happening around the North East.

Join our local group in the North East on Zoom for their 2020 Annual General Meeting.

Friday 25 September
2-4pm

Reflect on where we are now in the North East with

Revd Deirdre Brower Latz
Principal of Nazarene College Manchester
Facilitator for Church Action on Poverty’s ‘Church on the Margins’ programme in Manchester

Click below to send us an email and book your place; we will send you the Zoom link.

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

The Collective, Episode 2 – Community responses

Book review: No Fixed Abode

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

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