Posts Tagged ‘Hostels’

Jesus in the Food Bank Queue

December 9, 2016

I’ve been attending the Advent course run by one of the ministers at our local church. The theme is hospitality in the Bible and the early church, and the obligation this lays upon modern Christians to live and work for the poor, the marginalised and strangers. Last night one of the texts studied was Christ’s words ‘For as you do to the least of them, you do to me’. Christ made clear that the people, who will be saved at the Last Judgement, will be those who fed, clothed and tended Him when He was in need. By which He meant the poor, the hungry, the sick and the outcast.

He talked about how he had visited a church in Washington D.C. He pointed out that not all of the city is like the White House and the government buildings. Beyond this well-kept, affluent area is are districts of the most desperate poverty. The church he’d visited had maintained a food line for the area’s poor. He stated that these were people, who were forced to use it to make ends meet until their next paycheque came. He was particularly impressed by one of the women serving at this food bank. Every morning she prayed to serve Jesus when she saw him again in the queue that day. She didn’t mean she literally saw Him, but as He was present in the poor peeps, who turned up for their food. It was a powerful, modern application of Christ’s teaching.

He also produced quotations from the Early Church Fathers about the Christian duty to work for the poor, even when personal charity was being undermined somewhat by the institutional charity – hospitals, hostels, orphanages and monasteries of the late Roman Empire after Constantine’s conversion. Hippolytus, for example, advised that every citizen, who was able should build a guest chamber on to their house. And one of the other Church Fathers described one of the hospitals as a city for the poor, by which they could meet the rich as equals.

These are very strong, challenging demands for Christians to practise the charity taught in the Bible, and to seek out, identify with and support ‘the fatherless, the widow and the foreigner’, and bring to their feasts ‘the poor, the lame and the blind’.

Unfortunately, Contemporary neoliberal politics since Thatcher and Reagan has demanded that the institutional care provided by the state should be cut back, with disastrous results. They believed that this would strengthen the Church by forcing people to fall back on private charity. Hence we now have the spectacle of various charities actively seeking out government contracts, and fully supporting the hideous policies of sanctioning and marginalisation that are forcing more people into poverty, misery, starvation and, in extreme cases, death. And the charities themselves are under threat. The figures provided by the Trussell Trust of the numbers of people using their food banks have been attacked by the Tories for the simply reason that they give the lie to their propaganda that austerity – meaning benefit cuts and wage freezes – have somehow made people better off.

I fully support the charities and their workers, who do genuinely work for the poor. One of the most acute accounts of what it is like to work at the sharp end trying to aid those pushed into need by the government’s policies comes from the blogs and vlogs of people working in food banks. I’ve reblogged some of these. But private charity isn’t enough. We need the support of the state, and active welfare policies to empower the poor, disabled and marginalised, including the working class.

As for Theresa May, and her claims to be guided by her Christian faith, before she does so, she should meditate very much on how Our Lord is present in the poor. She may well do so. But I’ve seen no evidence of her doing anything genuinely to alleviate poverty.

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Private Eye: Tory Persecutor of Homeless Made Head of Homeless Charity

February 19, 2015

As Tom Pride would say on his blog, not satire.

Johnny Void has for a long time blogged about the way the poor, the disabled and the homeless are frequently left helpless and betrayed by the very charities that are supposed to support them. These are the charities, whose managers support the brutal sanctions regime and workfare programme, which has seen tens, of not hundreds of thousands of people thrown on the streets without support, or sent to supply cheap labour to Tory donors like Tesco’s. In one of his most recent posts, Mr Void was particularly critical about the mental health charity, MIND, for supporting this highly exploitative system. MIND had produced a pamphlet that uncritically accepted the fraudulent and scientifically bankrupt idea that work automatically improved the condition of the mentally ill. They not only supported the system, but actually wished to send it extended and improved through the addition of mental health experts like, er, themselves.

The Void took the view that MIND were entirely cruel and corrupt. He had some very good things to say about the generosity and compassion of their front-line workers. He argued, however, that they were badly led by an upper management that knew nothing about the mental health and wellbeing of the lower orders. These were high-earning professionals, who thought that everyone looked forward to work the same way they did with their well-paid and interesting jobs.

I found this story in Private Eye’s edition for the 18th to 31st October 2013. It reports the appointment of the former chief executive of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, Derek Myers, to chairman of the board of trustees of the homeless charity, Shelter. It not only corroborates what Mr Void has said about the upper management of these charities, but it suggests that they’re staffed by the very people, who are responsible for the problems in the first place. The article reads

How well suited is Derek Myers, former chief executive of Tory-run Hammersmith & Fulham council, to his new role chairing the board of trustees at housing charity Shelter?

During his time running H&F (described by David Cameron as “his favourite council”), Myers oversaw the implementation of policies that were light-years away from those promoted by Shelter.

With Myers at the helm, H&F demolished a hostel for the homeless to make way for a development of luxury flats and mews housing; auctioned off 300 much-needed council homes, giving developers the green light to build luxury developments at the expense of affordable housing; and included no affordable housing among the 6,700 properties built in the redevelopment of the Earls Court exhibition centre. So much for Shelter’s campaign for “the government to meet people halfway and get more affordable homes built”.

Shelter also campaigns to prevent homelessness and helps tenants sustain their tenancies so they can continue to live in their community. With Myers in charge, H&F not only threatened to relocated 500 families on benefits to the Midlands, but it also told homeless people – many of whom would have contacted Shelter – that even if the council had a legal obligation to find them housing, they should be prepared to leave the borough. Does the housing charity know who it is taking on?

This is precisely the social cleansing against which Johnny Void has blogged so much. And with the poor and indigent being thrown out of the borough by Myers, it’s no wonder Dave Cameron considered it his favourite. All gentrified for the rich, with the poor being steadily forced out so they don’t have to trouble all those multi-millionaire financiers Dave loves so much. It shows you exactly what Cameron’s attitude to poverty is, as well as Myers and, by implication, the charity he has joined.

Guy Debord’s Cat himself lives in Hammersmith and Fulham, and has also blogged extensive on affairs in the borough, and the disgusting policies pursued by Myer’s party comrades on the council, so his blog is also worth checking out on these issues.