Sunday, 11 June 2017
Our church's Local Outreach Co-ordinator, Angus, works tirelessly with other churches and within the community on all sorts of key local issues. He is involved in our local foodbank and with initiatives such as the Saltaire Canteen, a 'pay as you feel' café that uses food, donated by local businesses, that might otherwise be wasted. He has just spent two days without food and locked in a cage in Shipley town centre, as a way of standing with those who find themselves trapped and hungry in their circumstances.
He says: 'I've seen poverty in Shipley and been challenged that those in poverty are not "the undeserving poor" but have often found themselves unsupported by the State when in circumstances beyond their control. Since March 2012, the demand for help from foodbanks has risen by over 100%. This is largely because other means of support have been eroded. As living costs have gone up and job security has decreased, delays in benefit payments are a common occurrence and the use of sanctions [for instance, stopping people's benefits because they miss an interview, regardless of the reasons] has massively increased. As a Christian, I believe that God calls us to respond to his amazing love by loving our neighbours as ourselves.' He goes on to say that hearing people's stories makes him question and want to challenge the injustices that push people to the margins; he thinks there is a call to action, for all of us, to try change the story.
The display boards around his cage have moving accounts of people who, because of ill health, redundancy or relationship breakdown, have lost their source of income and sometimes their homes. The way our benefits system works can mean unexpected delays or changes in the payments people get and it's not difficult to see how this can result in not only a struggle to exist on a meagre income but a crisis when there is simply no money for food. Added that, the stress and loss of confidence and esteem in difficult circumstances can really push people under. The foodbank can assist people not only with emergency food but with a listening ear and help them to find support from charities and other agencies to resolve their underlying problems. Similar stories can be read on the website of The Trussel Trust, the umbrella organisation that supports foodbanks (see HERE). I encourage you to read them.
The Bradford North foodbank, according to their website, gave out 1323 emergency three-day food parcels in 2016-17, supporting over 3000 people, 40% of whom were children. People have to be referred to the foodbank by other agencies (you can't just rock up and ask for food). It is quite apparent that something is going badly wrong in our supposedly civilised society.
We can help by:
- reading the stories and educating ourselves so that we are well-informed;
- donating food to our local collection centres;
- asking questions and talking to our political representatives and community leaders about how to achieve a better society for everyone.
I'm rarely so 'political' on this blog but I think it's important that we are all aware of what is going on.