Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Riot reaction

This is my last blog before I take a summer break and I will try and keep it short and sweet. 
The idea of making people, who were convicted of rioting, homeless is the most ridiculous thing I have heard in the whole 'riots' debate.  In fact when I first heard it I thought it was a joke.  There is nothing about it that makes any sense to me.  So let me run the scenario...

If someone has been convicted of being involved in the riot they are being punished by the courts and the sentences given out in the last week appear to be strong enough to provide a deterrent. (Now is not the time to discuss the value of the judicial system that sends a mother of two to prison for 5 months for handling a stolen pair of shorts! I'll save that for another day)  So if councils then evict that immediately becomes an additional punishment.  Where does the additional punishments stop, perhaps if you keep rolling out the punishments you can stop benefits, stop health provision, stop education.

And if I run the scenario of eviction, immediately people who were not involved in the riots will be evicted which seems hugely unfair.  It would cause huge disruption to an already massive challenge for inner city areas.  Because immediately the Council would be under pressure to assess the family for housing under the homelessness Act.  And many charities and other community agencies would be called upon to provide help when there are already too many homeless and vulnerable people needing help.  This plan simply will make things a lot worse.

Normally I would say that the courts would never sanction anything like this.  However the events of the last week have shown in a time when politicians are reacting strongly some normal things have been ignored. 

The answer to restoring a broken society is to help people build self respect, understanding the value of working and for all people to respect authority.  This is not achieved by seeing how much can be stripped away from people!



Tuesday, 16 August 2011

I don't do book reviews.

I have never done a book review on this blog and I'm not sure if this will count as one.  I do read books but unlike people like Matt Hosier I am usually just pleased to finish and move on without writing about them afterwards.  However, it is summer and therefore a great time to read so I am reading a few books.  In fact my wife who reads lot recently had a kindle for her birthday and the slightly strange thing is that when I look at what she is reading it is more often looking at the online bookshop rather than reading a book! 

I went to the newly refurbished library on Torridon Road yesterday which is very nice although it appears that there are far less books in the library than there were before the works. (I don't think the library was looted last Monday)  I found a book called 'Violent London' which is the story of 2000 years of riots and revolutions in London.  I read a quote in this book "What is the world coming to when you can't go to the country fair without people smashing windows", it's almost a 2011 quote!  However this book didn't feel like a summer read so I left it on the shelf.

Instead I found a book called 'Curing Hiccups with small fires' which is a totally bizarre book. 'From the endearingly odd to the dangerously maniacal, the British have always had a reputation for breeding eccentrics, Karl Shaw describes over 200 of the most hilarious, outlandish and occasionally downright weird examples.'  I have only read a handful of the characters in it but already it makes modern eccentrics seem very mild.  If there were tabloid journalists around in the 1800's they would have had more than enough to write about.

Take WG Grace, the grandfather of cricket, a Doctor, noble and upright, playing a gentlemans game.  Yeh right!  He refused to be out, famously saying "they have come to watch me bat not you bowl", ignored the umpire, one bowler got him out 4 times before the umpire dared give WG out.  His brother used the stump to threaten the officals if he didn't like the decision.

CB Fry, a remarkable sportsman, was offered to be the King of Albania, others claimed outrageous expenses, many wore shocking clothing, some delighted in being naked, many were arisocrats who took advantage of their wealth and position.  But what is amazing is that many have made such an impression on British society.  The Revd William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930) name lives on due to 'spoonerisms', when parts of two words get mixed up.  My favourite of his is when he announced a hymn 'Kinquering Congs their titles take ...'.  The Revd John Wesley, father of Methodism, wrote lots of poems to suplement his income with many odd titles including Maggots: or Poems on several subjects never handled before.

Poets, sportsmen, adventurers, polititians - this book shows that firstly there is nothing new in odd behaviour, it has been done before, but secondly it does suggest that being slightly odd is part of making an impression on British history. 

Enjoy your summer reading!

Friday, 12 August 2011

How to help society? It's always one life at a time!

Yesterday was the great marathon walk day - 26 miles over the North Downs from Cuxton to Botley Hill.  It was a tough day and my legs are feeling it today.  The current total raised is about £800 with more coming in so I am hopeful of reaching £1000.  That means 1000 3-course meals for some of the most vulnerable people in South East London.  Thank you if you have made a donation.

But the events of the last week have cast a huge shadow over South East London and probably the whole country.  So much has been said and blogged about the riots so I am not trying to summarise the issues here.  I found the scenes on Monday deeply sad and I have spent the week living with the consequences of the actions of a few.  For many we work with each week they live alone and often in great fear.  This week has seen even greater fear shown, one man came to the door and wanted the outside metal gate closed to protect himself because he was scared of people walking past.  Another was greatly angered because a friend of his had been robbed.  Others because they are vulnerable and on the streets and not positive about the police got mixed up in the troubles even though they were not looting and rioting. 

The soundtrack to Catford Centre in normal times is sirens but this week has been like no other.  Last night driving through Catford we saw blue lights coming towards us and we saw probably 15 of those riot styles police vans that have appeared in the last few days.  These were not the transit vans with grills on them, these are the vehicles that are more like tanks, something that is seen in Northern Ireland.  Where they were going I don't know but it definitely creates an impression.  Today I was helping one man and whilst in Catford I lost count of the number of emergency vehicles that were charging up and down, sirens blaring, often 2 or 3 vehicles together.  There is a major operation going on out there!

The challenge for us all is how to live through this and beyond.  There are so many questions and answers to these troubles but I want to come back to one answer that I know is true.  Helping society recover always requires us to help one person at a time.  The biggest plans for society stand or fail on the ability to help one person to change, followed by another and another.  Politicians cannot change the human heart but the gospel is the story of good news that transforms the heart.  I know that sometimes one person can take up a lot of effort or require great patience to help and you question is it worth it.  But the time spent helping one young person or vulnerable person can result in changing a community.  That is why the Feast will, where possible, help each person who comes in who needs assistance.  As a project we will continue to help the most broken and needy, one life at a time!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Introduction to Homelessness Training

A number of our team have been on this training and have found it very useful.

Introduction to Homelessness Training
Saturday 1st October or Saturday 26th November 2011
Housing Justice runs a very popular one day training workshop on homelessness and related issues. It is particularly suitable for volunteers in churches and smaller homelessness projects or people who are new to working in the field. This one day workshop is usually over subscribed so early booking is recommended! 

The training covers: Role of the church, statutory and voluntary sector; homelessness law and local authority duties; mental health awareness; drugs and alcohol awareness; boundaries/dealing with conflict.

COST £25 per person for Housing Justice member organisations

NOTE HJ Membership includes two free places but please get in touch if cost is an issue. Some bursary places are available for unfunded churches or small organisations and for low/unwaged volunteers. 

DATES Saturday 1st October 2011 or Saturday 26th November 2011
10.00am - 4.00pm

Venue Housing Justice 22-25 Finsbury Square London EC2A 1DX
Nearest tube: Moorgate 

Further info/to book please email
Claire Garner or call 020 7920 6600

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Cleaning up a Mess

A team has formed that has taken on a fabulous task.  Mike and Jane Haley are now heading up a team that will regularly go into people's flats and homes helping them clean up, repair and generally learn some skills to maintain their homes in a better state.  They are looking for more people who will be on a team who will spend a couple of hours each month helping out.  This is such a fantastic opportunity and it can make a massive difference.  At times this has been the difference between someone staying in a house or choosing to give up and becoming homeless.

Most of the opportunities occur on weekdays but if you would like to be involved at the weekend or evening please let us know.  Perhaps you are in a group that would like to be involved.  Please contact or 020 8690 4646 if you would like to get involved.  If you have some time please do get involved. 

Also do not forget the £1 challenge - 5 ex rough sleepers walking a marathon distance over the North Downs Way on the 11th August.  If you want to be a £1 challenge supporter simply let me know and then give me the money when you see me next.  Remember: Every pound provides a hungry person with soup, main meal and a pudding.