Category: poverty

END HUNGER FAST

On Ash Wednesday a group of staff from the FNC joined faith leaders, food bank representatives and community groups to commission the Hunger Hut in the grounds of Birmingham Cathedral.

The Hunger Hut is a focus for End Hunger Fast in Birmingham and will be staffed by volunteers to enable it to open six days a week. Do call in if you are passing  and find out more about the campaign at www.endhungerfast.co.uk.

Following the launch of the Hunger Hut the Bishop of Birmingham wrote the following article for the Birmingham Post:-  the full text is below. It is quite long but definitely worth reading.

Bishop David Urquhart writes:

At a recent gathering of faith leaders a Government Minister joked that a collective of Bishops might be called a ‘correspondence.’ The letter we wrote with other Christian leaders on February 20th about welfare reforms and poverty seems to have struck a chord in the nation and in the fortnight that has followed its publication, poverty has barely been out of the headlines.

Following the focus on food poverty and food banks, the spotlight turned to families as the Government re-launched their draft Child Poverty Strategy.  However its call for better measurements and data was met with a plea for more substantial action to support the poorest people in our nation and break the cycle of deprivation. I believe this is a good opportunity to refresh our Birmingham Child Poverty Strategy.

But while it is easy to agree the poverty needs to end and action needs to be taken the question that is not so easily answered is ‘What do we do?’  The Church has begun to answer that question with its campaign End Hunger Fast which I launched in Birmingham yesterday.

During the next 40 days, the season of Lent, Christians across the country will be fasting and praying as is our tradition. This year there is an added focus of food poverty and  following the example of Jesus we will be finding ways of reaching out to those in need. One practical action we have committed ourselves to is to try and raise enough money to ensure the local charity SIFA Fireside can provide breakfast to the people sleeping rough in our city.  We will also be creating prayer spaces with a hunger focus and visiting food banks and shelters to talk to people there and gather stories of hunger which will be presented to parliament just before Easter.

We hope these stories will help us understand the patterns of poverty in this city region and reveal simple steps that could be taken to help people live without the stark choices of heat or eat, payday loans or no bus-pass to get to work. We expect to hear about low paid work, zero contract hours which mean people do not know if they will be paid from week to week, benefit sanctions and the destitution faced by immigrants who have ‘no recourse to public funds’ and cannot access the usual support networks. We will of course hear stories of bad health, debt, addiction and relationship break-up and among all the stories we will hear of great sacrifice, bravery, determination and fortitude as well as despair, frustration and anger.

Despite the complexity of the issues I think there are steps that the seventh richest nation in the world can take to help redistribute some of our resources and ensure we care for the most marginalised in our communities.
An obvious start would be a higher minimum wage, or the living wage, which has been adopted by many organisations and helps to ensure people do not have to take on several jobs to make ends meet or supplement their income with benefits and food-parcels. In 2013 the living wage for people outside London was calculated to be £7.65 per hour – the national minimum wage is £6.31. According to the Living Wage Foundation, it implementation is not only good for employees but for employers too. 80% of employers believed that the living wage had enhanced the quality of the work of their staff, while absenteeism had fallen by approximately 25%. (http://www.livingwage.org.uk/what-are-benefits)

Alongside a living wage it seems essential that child-care is accessible and affordable so parents can afford to work in the confidence that their children are being well looked after.  We need tailored support to help people overcome barriers to work whether they are educational issues, health-related problems or any other obstacles.

Of course these solutions need to work alongside growing a creative economy that provides as many well-resourced jobs as possible for those who need them including a flourishing social enterprise sector and a commitment to making work accessible, meaningful and rewarding. We have some wonderful examples of social enterprises helping people into work including Devenish Girl bakery in Weoley Castle, Gear Up in Hodge Hill and Urban Cycles in Ward End.

These are inspiring examples of enterprise putting people first – bringing jobs, training and hope to young people but there is much more like this that could be done by people working together with a commitment to shared benefit from business. Partnerships between the public sector and private sector, voluntary groups and faiths communities are going to play an essential role as we realise we share responsibility for the welfare of our city. But equally essential are new kinds of partnerships that are formed when individuals meet each other across divides of wealth, faith or ethnicity and see their shared humanity and responsibility to each other. The Near Neighbours programme in Birmingham has helped us to develop some of these relationships over the last three years, giving away nearly £500,000 to enable faith and community groups to start small projects to bring people together and work to change their communities. I was delighted to be at the recent announcement that the Government is allocating a further £3 million to this programme.

Equally I have heard of food bank volunteers who are changed by the stories they hear and are moved to lobby MPs or press for change in other ways.  I am also excited by other movements such as Places of Welcome which offer hospitality and refreshments in a way which narrows the gap between guest and host and encourages all to participate and contribute. If you’re interested in these ideas I recommend The Stop by Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis which tells how a simple food bank in Canada has developed, by encouraging participation rather than dependency,  into an internationally respected Community Food Centre with gardens, kitchens, a greenhouse and farmers’ markets. It centres on the idea of cooking and eating together to encourage healthy eating and mutual interdependency.
In the Christian tradition, our worship centres around a shared meal, instituted by Jesus Christ, which we call Holy Communion where young and old, rich and poor people of all ethnicities and abilities put aside their differences to share a foretaste of the banquet we believe is prepared in heaven. Meals have been very important in the bridging work of Near Neighbours and I believe they represent our shared humanity, our mutuality, our ability to share and our ability to provide for one another. So when the fast of Lent is over I look forward to the occasional feast, perhaps at a Place of Welcome, where all are included and no-one leaves hungry, where all are heard, seen and recognised as a human being who may have needs, failings and shortcomings but who brings their own unique experience, worth and gifts – carrying in them the image of God.

 

Welcoming the Stranger – Birmingham Churches Winter Night Shelter 2013

January 19th 2013 saw churches open their doors to homeless people and offer a bed to those who need it. Building on last year’s pilot, this year 6 hosts churches; 4 Church of England churches and 2 Baptist churches, offered shelter and hospitality for 6 weeks in January and February. The project was a collaboration of so many churches, projects and individuals. It included over 300 volunteers from a range of churches and traditions staffing the shelter; providing food, sleeping overnight and generally making guests feel at home. Guests were referred to the shelter by SIFA Fireside and also by outreach teams from Reach Out Network and Grace Bible Fellowship, who, as well as referring rough sleepers into the shelter, also met them at the pickup point and chaperoned them to the venues helping them to settle in.  Transport was provided by church projects and Shencare Community Transport along with volunteer drivers for each night, and at each venue there was a volunteer coordinator who managed the shift and food rotas. To date the project has provided shelter to 31 guests, and offered a warm place to sleep during what has been, at times, a bitterly cold couple of months.  Wonderfully, during their time with us, some of our guests have been able to find work and accommodation, and we have also been able to work with Midland Heart Homeless Services team to help guests access any support available to them.  One of our guests who had been homeless for 4 years, with the support from an experienced volunteer, was helped to make a successful homeless application which resulted in him being given accommodation. Thank you to all those who have given their time, resources, prayer, money and support to make this project such a great success in providing shelter, hospitality, friendship and support to those who have used the shelter this winter. It has been such a blessing to many guests and volunteers alike. However in terms of tackling homelessness it is only really scratching the surface in helping to address the issues that are faced by those sleeping rough. There is a strong desire from The Birmingham Christian Homeless Forum, Housing Justice and Thrive Together Birmingham to engage and help to mobilise churches and Christians who are passionate and committed to supporting homeless people. We are trying to do this by developing this and other projects, and to work with other voluntary and statutory organisations to be part of addressing the needs of homeless people face. For more information about how you can support this and other homeless projects please contact e.neill@HousingJustice.org.uk  or info@thrivetogetherbham.org

Health Ministry in Local Neighbourhoods – Parish Nursing Event in Balsall Heath

Last year Thrive Together Birmingham hosted a ‘Tackling Poverty’ event, offering resources and tools to churches wanting to address issues of poverty in their local neighbourhoods. One of the exhibitors was Parish Nursing UK, a Christian charity which helps local churches appoint nurses to support people and communities towards what they call “whole person healthcare”, which they describe as care for “body, mind and spirit”.
Their work is essentially about enabling registered nurses to combine their nursing skills with their faith and work with their local church to address some of the health needs of the local community. Thrive were keen to get them to Birmingham to inspire nurses to explore possibilities in their neighbourhoods, and on Saturday 22nd September we held an event at Balsall Heath Church Centre. Those attending who were already parish nurses shared their experience and told stories of churches hosting health drop-in’s, where people had their blood pressure checked over a cup of tea and chat, and where time to share and be listened to was prioritised, as well signposting and supporting people to access other health care services. Community breakfasts and lunches focused around highlighting particular health issues.  Cycling projects aimed at developing fitness, encouraging weight loss and encouraging self-esteem. Stories of relationships being built and friendships developing with frail and elderly people who had previously been reluctant to trust others; and of support and reassurance offered to frightened patients and families following difficult diagnoses. The event also offered opportunities for nurses and others attending to ask questions of members of the parish nursing UK team, church leaders and existing parish nurses.

If you are interested in exploring possibilities for using nursing skills in your local neighbourhood and would like more information contact Jennie Fytche at pnmukjenniefytche@btinternet.com

Birmingham Churches Winter Night Shelter 2013

Following the success of last years pilot churches winter night shelter in Birmingham, church leaders, outreach workers and others met at the Faithful Neighbourhood Centre to discuss a churches night shelter for this winter.

Last winter Churches from across Birmingham came together to provide shelter and hospitality to homeless people in Birmingham. Using the ‘roving shelter’ model devised by the Christian charity Housing Justice, the Birmingham Churches Winter Night Shelter was hosted by 5 churches on different nights of the week and provided a hot meal, friendship and hospitality, a bed for the night and breakfast.
Guests were offered a place at the shelter through a referral system which was coordinated by St Martin’s in the Bullring Help Desk with support from Reach Out Network, a Christian outreach team who also provided transport for guests to get to the shelter. This project was a great example of the Body of Christ working together in Birmingham to help those who really need it. The volunteers who staffed the shelter came not only from the host churches but from a wide variety of denominations and church traditions.
Those who used the shelter were so grateful that churches were offering them food and a bed for the night, but were equally grateful that volunteers took time to get to know them and made them feel comfortable and welcome, one guest said “it was nice to be given time to talk, it’s very rare you can sit down for a proper meal when you’re homeless”.
This winter there are plans for a 4 – 6 week shelter to start mid-January, and church hosts, volunteers, resources, and funding are now being sought.  For a copy of the  Pilot Winter Shelter Report 2012_more information contact Thrive Together Birmingham at info@thrivetogetherbham.org or

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