• Savannah Mayo

Sheffield Church Action on Poverty Update -April 2020

Secretary- Briony Broome -email- briony.broome@hotmail.co.uk You are welcome to share this update with your Church/Networks Sheffield Church Action on Poverty Facebook page. Details of campaigns and updates are put on this page regularly and can be shared with your networks, friends and Churches. If you haven’ already done so and you are able, please go to the page and like it.

Unfortunately, our Civic Breakfast had to be cancelled, we hope to re -arrange our AGM and presently we are beginning to make tentative plans for our annual pilgrimage

During the present situation , National Church Action on Poverty will send weekly emails, with: stories of how people in our network are working together to handle the situation; resources to help you stay safe and well; actions you can take to ensure no one is cut off; and materials for prayer and reflection go to the website to sign up if you haven’ t already done so and encourage others to do so-www.church-poverty.org.uk

At this unusual time, we should be challenged by how fragile the vulnerable in our society are to a crisis in their lives and be reminded that “whatever we do for the least we do for Him”. Some thoughts from the Foodbank Networks and an item from the Big Issue follow:


Grace Foodbank-We are still operating

The advice that we have been given by the Independent Food Aid Network (who have been in touch with Government officials) is that foodbanks are regarded as performing "key work" and that foodbank volunteers are regarded as "key workers" and are allowed to come to the foodbank and volunteer. (If you have any time on your hands, you might want to reflect on what this says about 21st century society). They are grateful to the Michael Church who have allowed us to spread out into the church building so that our volunteers can work at a safe distance from each other.

Nick Waterfield (Our previous Chair) Of the Parsons Cross Initiative writes: Signs of what we need to put in place for once we have come through the present situation We’ve seen a deep affection and a deep acknowledgement of the need for a good quality health service available for all at all times. We can’t pay for that by any means other than taxation or by social responsibility. It’s a shared resource. This crisis has shown perhaps more than anything practical ever could do, the interdependence of each other. If we are not community, we are nothing. It has also shown that there has been an over-reliance on non-statutory and charity responses. It’s worried me, as somebody who has run a food bank for nine years here in Sheffield that at least in these initial phases that the government, locally and nationally, has seen food banks as a means of distributing food to more and more people. Food banks that were never set up even to feed the numbers we were feeding before the crisis are now being seen to feed even more, as if that response was somehow appropriate. Reflect about what is it that we want to be as a society going forward. How will we value community, value each and every citizen? How will we ensure that people are not reliant on charity but that as a society we see that inter-connectedness and we learn to explore it in new ways? How, as a society, may we take this set of events across the world as an opportunity to reshape the world, to reshape our attitude to climate change, to hunger and to poverty? How may we see this as a God-given opportunity to actually reimagine the world?


Charlotte Killeya, also from the Parson Cross Initiative also writes: Anyone who has ever run a foodbank, or volunteered at one, will have experienced the feeling at the end of a session when you look at the shelves and realise that the food cupboard is bare. It’s something that we have got used to seeing: those gaping holes on the shelves. Fortunately, in the past we have always managed to fill them again using donations of money and food. At times we have been astounded how quickly and generously the local community and other local food projects have supported us. However, each week there has always been that nagging question of doubt: “Will this be the week that we will run out of food and have to close our foodbank doors?” We have continually said that this model of food access and distribution for the most vulnerable in our society is not sustainable and is not a solution to the underlying issues about why people use foodbanks.


THE BIG ISSUE


On Monday 23 March, shortly before Boris Johnson announced a nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of Covid-19, staff at Big Issue North made the incredibly difficult decision to cease sale of the magazine on the street for the safety of our vendors and customers. This may last for weeks or even months, which means a disaster to people who rely on selling Big Issue North to earn an income. As well as losing what for many is their only job for the foreseeable future, a third of our vendors are currently homeless, making it incredibly difficult for them to self-isolate. One in five also fall into high risk categories due to their age or existing health conditions, such as asthma, COPD or diabetes. A third have also relied on a foodbank or soup kitchen at some point, not only for food, but also for toiletries, cleaning products and fuel vouchers. This number is likely to rise as many vendors now face the prospect of destitution, but an increasing number of these services have been forced to close their doors, leaving our vendors without the support they so desperately need.

This is also likely to have a severe impact on the mental health of our vendors. Four in five people experiencing homelessness struggle with mental illness, and this crisis will add to their anxieties.

Thankfully, members of the public have come forward to offer their support. We have set up a hardship fund to provide financial support to our vendors, whether that’s securing them accommodation, paying their rent or bills, or covering the cost of essential shopping, and have received around £1,000 a day in donations. We have also seen an influx of people taking out subscriptions to Big Issue North and our new quarterly magazine, The New Issue, as well as buying physical and digital issues online. However, we need to generate significantly more income in the weeks to come to be able to provide the support our vendors need. This will include securing accommodation for our vendors who are homeless, covering the cost of rent, bills and essential shopping for as long as they are unable to work, and enabling our frontline staff to continue to provide support remotely, from helping vendors to register with a GP or for Universal Credit to providing vital information and translation services for vendors who are not fluent in English or do not have access to the internet, television or radio. We need your help. Here are five things you can do today:

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