- to offer practical help;
- to research and listen and discover what poverty is all about;
- to hold out a better vision for our communities.
Jane Perry introduced a session on Listen Up (a project where people experiencing poverty are listened to and their stories recorded). She said that poverty is political but too big an issue to be left to politics. That poverty is political in how we organise ourselves and what kind of a society we want to live in. Poverty is tied up in our structures and therefore we have a personal stake. To make a difference we need to:
- engage with poverty;
- ask the difficult questions;
- listen to those experiencing poverty.
Reports were presented from the three Listen Up projects. Most people interviewed had suffered disturbed childhoods, broken relationships, experience of homelessness, physical and mental health problems, and loneliness and isolation.
Their coping strategies were amazing, relying on family, destroying credit cards, careful shopping, using blankets to keep warm instead of heating and attending projects for food and social activity. They usually managed tight budgets well but a sudden crisis could cause serious issues.
Nick Waterfield of the Parsons Cross (PXI) food bank addressed the meeting. Now more than ever it is crucial to stand alongside people and to address the pain of our neighbours. In 2010 the PXI helped 64 families; 1,000 have been helped in 2014.
Food banks are a defensive position and we have to ask how far should food banks become part of the system. If food banks continue it shows the failure of our society, and food banks cannot be the solution to poverty. Two issues therefore face food banks-
- How do we help the hungry?
- How do we move forward and not become part of the system?
And in addressing these issues, we need to face up to helping our neighbour and being inclusive and become a voice for the voiceless .
Tim Arnold, Manager of London Road Citizens Advice Bureau, went through their experience of how benefit sanctions are hitting those who are vulnerable as reported in our last newsletter.
Professor Alan Walker, chair of Sheffield Fairness Commission, reminded us that a society should be judged on how it treated the most vulnerable. He asked us to communicate the unfairness in our city and that a fair city is good for all. We were asked to CHAMPION, CHALLENGE and CHANGE unfairness. He said that changing unfairness is not a top-down thing but a bottom-up issue and it starts with us as individuals being fairer.
We were asked to make pledge to make a difference: go to http://www.ourfaircity.co.uk/makeapledge/