Saturday, 27 July 2013

Do you run a Foodbank?

This is a question I have been asked many times, here is my answer..

I run the Jericho Road Project which houses homeless people, feeds the hungry and defends those who have no voice!

We have though chosen not to do a Foodbank. These have become the thing to do for churches and projects like mine.  Foodbanks have had national publicity and significant political support.  A system that allows agencies in the locality to give out vouchers to those in need to get an emergency handout must be great! well I am not convinced that Foodbanks are that good for the poor!

Before I give my reasons for not doing a Foodbank let me say that we DO give out food to people who are destitute.  We collect harvest food from schools but we only give to it to people and families who have NO income or in extreme circumstances.   We have a local social worker who uses our supply of food to help a family who have at times no other source of food. But in order to keep the food for those who are destitute we have to say no to many people who want a 'hand-out'.  For example I refused to give any food to a man who gets full benefit and has a freedom card for London transport (free travel) despite his well practised tale of sorrow!  I would rather help in ways other than a food hand-out.  He didn't like it but he comes back every week and has started to help out at the end of the evening! He will benefit more by helping others than by begging for food!

3 key reasons why I do not run a Foodbank.

1. The people providing the food are not building relational connection with the person in need. The connection is a helper and recipient one.  I understand the aim/limit is for people to make 3 collections of food but it seems that people in 'need' learn how to make the best use of the system by sending others to get food in their place.
2. The recipient is not lifted up out of poverty.  Their immediate needs are being met, food on the table tonight, but it does not address the medium/longer term needs or the more complex and difficult issues!  Perhaps in some cases a connection is made or referrals are made to the relevant place that can help, such as debt advice.
3. I have read press releases, been to Foodbank's and statistics are given out that demonstrate how the demand for food has gone up and that means that there needs to be more Foodbanks.  Firstly public awareness means more people will make sure they get a free hand-out but of course the statistics are going up when the government are creating more people who have to 'beg' for food.  Their strategy for dealing with people who don't /are not able meet their standards is to suspend people's benefit for months at a time.  They can only do this  and get away with it with a rapidly expanding food charity sector picking up the shortfall. 

Last Wednesday highlighted the problem really well.  A lady who should be aspiring to get training and work, who has no obvious drug and alcohol issues and is socially very able told me that she got some food from a 'Foodbank' in Camberwell.  She also told me when asked that she was getting full benefit so I asked her why she got a handout, only to find that she went back the next day and got a 2nd handout!  When I explained this was not good for her and not what a food handout should be doing she replied "this [where she got her handout] must be a really good Foodbank".  

I heard John Bird, founder of the Big Issue, say recently that "I know people are going to change when they start talking about what they can do for others".  I would rather help people become contributors in society rather than receivers.  It stops the poor being kept in poverty! 

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Requested by my Grandfather

By popular request; well my 94 year old grandfather has definitely requested this, my fingers are at work creating another blog.  Perhaps my recent hiatus from blogging has been because Twitter has taken over my attention.  Although interestingly, blogs remain available to see for a long time, much longer than Twitter which seems that each Tweet has a momentary lifespan. Unless of course it lands you in trouble!

But of all weeks to re-engage with the blogging world, this takes some beating.  Of course you can ask the Aussies what that feels like!  It appears we are living through the most glorious age of British sport - where ever you look there are world beaters from our shores - 2012 was remarkable but just this last weekend Alastair Brownlee, the British Lions, Dan Martin (cyclist born living in Birmingham, representing Ireland, winner of Sunday's Tour de France stage) and of course Andy Murray all dominated world sport!  Even the leader of the Tour is racing for our nation although at times I wonder if he would rather be recognised as African (he was born and raised in Kenya).

Even the weather is remarkable but it has been playing havoc with the Allen family's plans.  Let me explain, the last few weeks of this term have been as busy as Christmas - I know, I know we chose to have 4 children!! International nights, awards night, 4 different sports day, picnics, bbq's and not one of them has been cancelled because of bad weather!  We also spent the week with 11 people staying at our house, the 6 of us, our lodger Katie, a German girl staying for 5 weeks, my sister Catherine, her boyfriend Steve (an Aussie, get in there!) and his cousin Connor (another Aussie, bring on the Ashes!). Add in the dog and we have been a happy dozen.

But Sunday was a memorable day, Not only was it one of the great British sporting days, it was also my grandmother's 98th birthday and it was a fabulous day to be at King's Church. Now if Church does what it was designed to be; it will be full of life, growing numerically and lives being changed positively. Sadly much of what is reported about churches is the opposite!  But on Sunday King's had a massive picnic at Ladywell arena in the afternoon, huge numbers of people at the services with a good number of people publicly responding to become Christians, there were baptisms and lots of new people!  I love my job and days like Sunday are a real joy!  

My grandfather and my grandmother have lived through more than one British male winner of Wimbledon, I wonder if I will!