Smart map for homeless people in Berlin

I love the concept of this map – it’s beautiful and yet also incredibly helpful.

Berlin-city-guide-to-help-750x532

Adapting the London Underground map, the Berliner Stadtmission, raises the issue of homeless people in the winter.

The map highlights places for help and shelter in the German capital – places where clothing and food can be collected, and where homeless people can find shelter in cold winter days.

The map is map by creative collective Hektik, also from Berlin. See their website for more work for the Stadtmission and examples how the underground map is used. The campaign is titled with the hashtag #WasHeißtFrieren which supposedly means something like ‘what is actually freezing?

‘Credit unions provide a much-needed alternative for many consumers’

Making money and good investments concept

Check out this brilliant post on how ‘Credit unions provide a much-needed alternative for many consumers’:

The UK has a money problem. And no, I don’t mean our national debt. This one is personal. Money being borrowed by consumers recently saw its highest jump in eight years, whilst one in three of us couldn’t afford a £200 expense in an emergency without borrowing. A whopping nine million Britons are in debt.

The Christmas season just gone caused a typical upsurge in consumer spending; the average British family was set to spend £800 on their celebrations.The arrival of the New Year, however, has heralded an altogether different story. For many, the aftermath of the festive season brings into clear focus their own financial struggles.

The Church Credit Champions Network is trying to do something about this. Set up in response to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s famous ‘Wonga’ comments made in July 2013, the network is working with credit unions, debt advice providers and other initiatives to build a more financially resilient society, all through the local church.

Credit unions provide a much needed financial alternative for many consumers, particularly around Christmas time. Most credit unions offer Christmas savings accounts, where members are incentivised to save money throughout the year for the annual big spend, and can only draw it out in November and December.

Credit unions also provide flexible, low-cost credit. This is a much-needed and fairer alternative to many other organisations out there, such as the payday loan companies which offer only expensive loans with interest rates, and the banks who exclude so many on lower incomes from accessing their products. One Kensington-based credit union saw a 25% increase in loans this Christmas as people ditched payday lenders.

Churches can support credit unions in various ways, such as promoting membership to congregations and communities, or by opening up buildings as points of access for credit union services. The Church Credit Champions Network has built relationships with local credit unions and is connecting them with churches in order to scale up this vital sector.

Debt advice and money management help is also widely needed to build a more financially resilient society. Christians Against Poverty run a fantastic debt counselling model for churches and helped around 2,500 people go debt free in 2014. They have also produced a savings-focused budgeting course. Community Money Advice offer a debt advice centre model for churches too. The Church Credit Champions Network is encouraging churches to consider offering these services wherever they can.

By March this year, the network is on target to have generated £2.2 million in social benefit, measured by the estimated increase in access to affordable credit and increased volunteering due to its activities. Two hundred churches across the network’s current active areas of London and Liverpool have engaged in some way, and almost 3,000 people have joined credit unions as a result. These figures are set to dramatically increase as the network rolls out nationally in 2016 and the church continues to support credit unions, and offer debt advice and money management help.

Through its resources, relationships and connections, the Church Credit Champions Network is beginning to help build a fairer financial society but perhaps more importantly, it is also providing the Church with a vehicle through which to act on its mission.

– Tom Newbold, London coordinator for the Church Credit Champions Network

Research into local foodbanks (Hampshire, Portsmouth & Southampton)

Between a rock and a hard place - The Bill Sargent Trust

There are now at least 20 food banks in the Hampshire area, including some of the wealthiest parts of the county. They cover rural and urban locations, with approximately 50% affiliated to the Trussel Trust.

The research commissioned by the Bill Sargent Trust reinforced the findings of national research. Users generally go to food banks only when other options have been exhausted, and often feel shame and embarrassment about having to ask for help. They are living ‘on the edge’ and many have multiple problems including physical disabilities, illnesses, and mental health problems.

What food banks consistently offer, as well as emergency help, is a listening ear and a generous and compassionate response. This is sometimes in stark contrast to users’ experiences of statutory services. Food bank users are often surprised and pleased to be treated with respect and sensitivity.

The report raises important questions for the future that our local food bank organisers and volunteers will need to consider.  You can download the full Report here, and the Executive Summary here.

Archbishop of Canterbury: “ We all benefit from the gifts that refugees bring”.

Refugees

The Archbishop of Canterbury writes, “ We all benefit from the gifts that refugees bring” in The Big Issue:

The scale of the problem we are facing as a global human family is astonishing. More than half a million people have crossed the Mediterranean and Aegean so far this year. They are fleeing war, persecution and deprivation in Syria and Afghanistan, Iraq and Eritrea, and other countries.

As the number of people arriving in Europe continues to rise, nearly 3,000 people making the journey have drowned like Aylan or gone missing. My experience, having worked in this area for many years, is that you very seldom meet people who want to be refugees.

It is a desperate, awful, terrible existence. You leave home when the alternative is deathIt is a desperate, awful, terrible existence. You leave home when the alternative is death. In the Levant and Mesopotamia, families are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. They are taking the deep blue sea, and taking their children with them.

… The people of these islands have a long and wonderful history of offering shelter – whether it be Huguenot Christians, Jewish refugees, Ugandan Asians, Vietnamese boat people or many, many others.

So as Christians we’re not just raising our voices – we are doing what the church always does: putting the love of Christ into action. Those Calais-bound cars were just the beginning: there is so much more to be done.

The campaign to send Christmas cards to ‘Britain’s loneliest schoolboy’

Christmas_card_campaign_Skerries_schoolboy

10-year-old Aron Anderson, who lives on the tiny island of Out Skerries hundreds of miles off the coast of Scotland, is literally the only pupil at his school. He gets taught in a two-room building, he has one teacher, and according to the Telegraph his closest friends on the island are ducks, sheep and his dog. The island’s population is 70.

Now, in the wake of his story being widely shared across Britain in the last couple of weeks, an online campaign has been started to send Aron Christmas cards.

Christmas_card_campaign

The campaign was started by Reddit moderator BesottedScot, and it’s been receiving a lot of attention on the United Kingdom and Scotland subreddits.  They wrote in the campaign description:

“I phoned his school last week to let them know that I was planning this, and that I recommended his parent(s) and/or his teacher helps him to open the cards.  I really want him to get a big massive smile on his face, so please, write a wee message in the card to show your support too!  We have 20,000 subscribers on here and if even 1% of you send a card that’s 200 cards to a lonely boy to cheer his Christmas right up. I hope you’ll do me proud and send some nice festive cheer.”

Christmas_card_campaign_comments

Apparently people have been sharing it on Facebook, and it looks as though word has already travelled across the Atlantic to the U.S.

Aron’s mother Denise was reported as saying:

“This is going to be his first winter as the only pupil so it’s hard to tell how it will be for him.  I do feel sorry for Aron being all by himself at school — but he really is happy. Spending a lot of time with adults has made him quite grown-up, but he does enjoy trips to the mainland to meet other children.”

Well Aron might not have many people to talk to on his island, but — if the Christmas card campaign is a success — he’ll soon discover that there are lots of people around the world who want to talk to him.

Footballers tell squatters to stay in their Manchester hotel for the winter

Manchester Stock Exchange

A group of squatters and homeless activists that took over a huge hotel undergoing renovation have been told they’re allowed to stay for the winter – by the hotel’s owners.

Manchester Angels gained access to the building, which is due to open as a luxury boutique hotel, on Sunday. The group assumed they’d be swiftly moved on, but were told by former Manchester United captain Gary Neville, one of the properties owners along with Manchester United assistant manager Ryan Giggs, they could stay.

Now the Grade II-listed former stock exchange on central Manchester’s Norfolk Street will become a home and welcoming hub for many of the city’s homeless.

Housing activist Wesley Hall, 33, said he broke down and cried after Neville told him the group could stay for a few months. “I’m crying,” he wrote on the group’s Facebook page. “Just go off the phone to Gary Neville. He’s letting us stay for a few months over the winter period and he’s gonna help us with intervention. I’m shaking here.”

Manchester Angels 1

The imposing former stock exchange was bought by Neville and Giggs two years ago for £1.5 million ($2.3 million). The pair gained permission to turn it into a 35-bed hotel complete with basement gym, spa, bar, restaurant and even a rooftop private members’ terrace.

Before that, though, it will be a sanctuary for homeless people. It’s been renamed the Sock Exchange and will provide somewhere to sleep, hot food, clothing, health checkups, advice on benefits and help with securing long term accommodation. There’s a hashtag, #OpSafeWinter, to coordinate the work. The group say they’re “in talks with a household name chef” to help with a Christmas meal.

“We are going to do everything properly,” Hall said of the project.

“We have already drawn up rotas for cooking, cleaning and staffing the gate. Everyone will be able to have their own room and each person will be able to lock their bedroom door.”

“We were expecting that as soon as Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville found out that we had occupied the building, they would try to get us evicted and that we would have to look for another building. Having a few months during the winter to work with homeless people without the threat of eviction hanging over our heads is brilliant.”

According to Hall, Neville just asked that the temporary residents allow surveyors to access the building as work continues on its renovation. Hall said he has promised to leave the building in as good a state as he found it, if not better.

Youth homelessness in the UK

Homeless Person

A new study on Youth Homelessness in the UK has been published.  The study focuses on identifying priorities for future service development.

This study reviews changes in youth homelessness policy and practice across the UK since 2008. It draws on academic research, “grey literature”, and available data and statistics, combined with qualitative interviews and focus groups with 26 youth homelessness experts from the four UK nations. The review aims to identify key gaps in provision and practical models that offer the most effective responses to youth homelessness.

The report highlights a number of positive developments over the last seven years:

  • improving responses to homeless 16/17 year olds;
  • the extension of the rehousing duty to virtually all homeless people (rather than only ‘priority’ groups) and a stronger emphasis on homelessness prevention in Scotland;
  • the introduction of a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent homelessness in Wales;
  • the extension of local authority duties to support young people in care; and
  • investment in the development of accommodation options for young homeless people in England.

 

Gaps in services

Drawing on consultation with 26 youth homelessness experts across the UK, the review identifies a number of areas in which service provision can be strengthened and developed:

  • PreventionDespite the mainstreaming of preventative ‘housing options’ approaches across Great Britain, the availability, uptake and effectiveness of mediation services could be improved, with a particular gap identified in the provision whole-family interventions and support and access to respiteor time-out emergency accommodation options while such family support and mediation is put in place.
  • Accommodation optionsYouth homelessness organisations face a major challenge in providing good quality accommodation that is genuinely affordable to young people both in work (often on low wages) and out of work (often with limited entitlements to welfare support). There is a particular gap in accommodation provision for young homeless people with complex needs who require high levels of support, with high quality, small-scale supported accommodation projectsSupported Lodgings; and the ‘Housing First’ model seen to offer promising solutions for this group. Psychologically informed environments –designed to take into account the psychological and emotional needs of service users – are now seen as crucial in the youth homelessness sector given that a higher proportion of young people using services have complex needs. For young people with low support needs, the development of long-term accommodation options that are affordable for individuals on a low income are required. Such provision might include: ‘light touch’ supported accommodationPeer Landlord and other shared accommodation models; design and build options that minimise costs and rent-levels; repurposing of former student accommodation; and refurbishment of empty properties.
  • EmploymentThere are calls for the better alignment of youth homelessness and youth employment services, to improve the employability and prospects of young people experiencing homelessness. Means of improving the employment offer for this group include: improving (formerly) homeless young people’s employability and work readiness through training and skills programmes and work experience; engaging and supporting employers to enable them to offer employment opportunities to young people who have experienced homelessness; and encouraging employment and earnings progression for homeless/formerly homeless young people through in-work support.
  • Social networksSupporting young people who have experienced homelessness to develop positive social networks is seen as an important means to support resettlement, improve young people’s wellbeing, and reduce the risk of repeat homelessness. Developing ‘social networks approaches’ to youth homelessness provision that help young people develop informal connections in the local community both during and after homelessness, including through mentoring schemes, were seen as important areas for development.

 

The full report can be accessed here.

A briefing summarising the report’s key findings can be accessed here.

Church of England Bishops write to Prime Minister on refugee crisis

This press release has been issued: Bishops call on Prime Minister to provide “meaningful and substantial response” to refugee crisis

17 October 2015
The Church of England today has published a letter sent to the Prime Minister in early September signed by 84 of its bishops calling for the Government to increase the number of Syrian refugees being resettled to this country “to a minimum of 50,000” over the next five years.

Referring to the situation in Syria as “one of the largest refugee crises ever recorded” the Bishops write that “a moral crisis of this magnitude calls each and all of us to play our parts.”

Calling directly on the Prime Minister to increase his current offer to accept 20,000 refugees over the next 5 years to 50,000 the Bishops write:

“We believe such is this country’s great tradition of sanctuary and generosity of spirit that we could feasibly resettle at least 10,000 people a year for the next two years, rising to a minimum of 50,000 in total over the five year period you foresaw in your announcement. Such a number would bring us into line with comparable commitments made by other countries. It would be a meaningful and substantial response to the scale of human suffering we see daily.”

In addition to “recognising and applauding” the announcements made by the Prime Minister the Bishops offer help from the Church of England in encouraging their churches to provide welcome, housing and foster care to refugees as well as to support the Government in its ongoing efforts.

In their letter the Bishops also called for the creation of a National Welcome and Resettlement Board, mirroring the successful work of such boards created by Government in response to past refugee crises in the 1950s and 1970s. Since the writing of the letter the board has been created with the Bishop of Durham serving as co-chair of the board.

Speaking on behalf of the bishops, the Rt. Revd. Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham said:

“The Archbishop of York recently said that the current situation has rightly been described as a refugee crisis but it is also a time of opportunity for us as a country and for our wider continent. The opportunity before us is to rise above narrow self-interest, however defined, and to embrace the highest parts of our humanity.

We recognise that both the Prime Minister and His Government responded to calls from the country for there to be a programme of resettlement and we are grateful to him for responding to those calls. However there is a real urgency to this issue with those increasingly being forced from their land as their homes are literally bombed into the ground. As the fighting intensifies, as the sheer scale of human misery becomes greater, the Government’s response seems increasingly inadequate to meet the scale and severity of the problem. It is disheartening that we have not received any substantive reply despite an assurance from the Prime Minister that one would be received. There is an urgent and compelling moral duty to act which we as bishops are offering to facilitate alongside others from across civil society.”

ENDS

The full text of the letter follows.

Rt Hon David Cameron MP

10 Downing Street
London
SW1A 2AA
10 September 2015

Dear Prime Minister,
Like you, your Government, and the people of our nation we are deeply concerned for the refugee crisis that we have to face together. We are grateful to you and your ministers for the conversations they have already held with the Archbishop of Canterbury and others around these issues.

We pray for the millions of people fleeing war and violence in one of the largest refugee crises ever recorded, and we remember those who have tragically died seeking sanctuary on European shores: those like Alan Kurdi, the three year old boy who heartbreakingly died and was washed up on a beach in Turkey.

It is a command in Judaism , “to welcome and love the stranger as you would yourself because you were strangers in the land of Egypt”. Followers of Islam are obliged to provide food, shelter and safety to the traveller. Christ himself and his family were refugees. We are reminded that in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral there is a 17th century notice which pays tribute to “the large and liberal spirit of the English church and the glorious asylum which England has in all times given to foreigners flying for refuge against oppression and tyranny.”

Such traditions and prayers must be joined with action. A moral crisis of this magnitude calls each and all of us to play our parts.

We recognise and applaud the leadership you and your government are showing in this crisis, both as one of the world’s top international donors and the recent announcement that the government will resettle 20,000 people over the next five years.

We stand ready to play our part as well. We will:

  1. Encourage our church members to work alongside the wider community in offering welcome, orientation, integration, sign-posting and support to all refugees who come
  2. Encourage, where possible and feasible, churches, congregations and individuals to make rental properties and spare housing available for use by resettled refugees.
  3. Promote and support foster caring among churches, congregations and individuals where appropriate to help find the homes needed to care for the increasing number of unaccompanied minors
  4. Pray for, act with and stand alongside your government, to rise to the challenge that this crisis poses to our shared humanity

From what we see in congregations across the United Kingdom we are confident that the country stands ready and willing to support the government to be even more ambitious as it responds to this historic crisis.

We believe such is this country’s great tradition of sanctuary and generosity of spirit that we could feasibly resettle at least 10,000 people a year for the next two years, rising to a minimum of 50,000 in total over the five year period you foresaw in your announcement. Such a number would bring us into line with comparable commitments made by other countries. It would be a meaningful and substantial response to the scale of human suffering we see daily.

We believe that should a National Welcome and Resettlement Board be established in response to the crisis drawing together civic, corporate and government leadership to coordinate efforts and mobilise the nation as in times past, such an effort would not be beyond the British people. A senior Bishop would gladly serve on such a board on our behalf and at your pleasure.

This letter is written to you privately at present. The College of Bishops meets in Oxford next week and will spend some time on Thursday 17th considering our practical response. If you were able to respond to me ahead of that date it would help our discussions.
Faithfully,

For a full list of signatories, go here, and scroll down

Youth homelessness figure eight times higher than Government admits

homelessness-getty

The full extent of youth homelessness is more than eight times higher than the Government admits, according to a new report.

At least 30,000 young people experiencing or at risk of homelessness are turned away from local authorities each year.  Figures from homelessness charity Centrepoint suggest at least 136,000 16-24 year-olds have asked for help in the past year but only 106,000 got it.

The report is based on 146 responses from a Freedom of Information request in England and Wales and suggests councils are unable to cope with the volume of young people in need of support.

Homelessness

Some 136,000 young people aged between 16 and 24 in England and Wales sought emergency housing in the past year. The figure is based on an analysis by the Centrepoint charity of 275 Freedom of Information responses from local authorities. In stark contrast, only 16,000 young people were officially classed as “statutory homeless” – which would mean councils had a legal duty to house them – according to the report.

Worryingly, some 30,000 of those seeking help were turned away with little if any support. And as many as 90,000 were only offered support such as family mediation, to help them stay at home, or debt advice. This means the vast majority of those going for help are not getting the full assistance they’d be entitled to if they were officially accepted as being homeless.

Last year only 40% of young people asking for support were given an assessment to find out if they were eligible for emergency housing.

Centrepoint say without assessments in all cases, some of the most vulnerable people could miss out on immediate housing support to which they are legally entitled, leaving them at risk.  The charity’s FOI does say that local authorities are not required to record the number of people asking them for help meaning the true number could well be higher.  They also say official statistics from the government on homelessness only show “part of the picture”.

These estimated figures were compiled by homelessness charity, Centrepoint.
These estimated figures were compiled by homelessness charity, Centrepoint.

 

Centrepoint say:

“A lack of coherent national data makes measuring the true scale of youth homelessness very challenging.  Figures compiled by the Department of Communities and local government and by devolved authorities show that there were 26,852 statutory homeless young people across the UK in 2013-14.”

The government has dismissed the report.  A Government spokesman said:

“Centrepoint’s analysis is misleading and based on anecdotal evidence.  Official figures show homelessness acceptances among young people in England is 13,490 which is less than half what it was in 2005.  We have made over £1bn available since 2010, to prevent and tackle homelessness and support vulnerable households.”

BBC Newsbeat have produced a detailed report which is worth taking the time to watch:

[youtube id=”I2cDZ_h6YrA” width=”580″ height=”337″]

Diocese of Winchester launches dual appeal to support refugees from Syria and victims of flooding in Myanmar

The Diocese of Winchester has launched an appeal to raise money to support refugees from Syria and in Myanmar.

Diocese of Winchester

Following the growing refugee crisis in Syria, the Diocese of Winchester is calling on people to support the fundraising efforts of Refugee Action, one of the UK’s leading refugee resettlement charities. Refugee Action has been working in the UK for over 30 years to support people fleeing from crises. At the moment the charity is helping to support refugees who have arrived in the UK by offering them safe places to stay, warm clothing and hot meals.

The Diocese is also appealing for donations to help those affected by the recent floods in Myanmar. Although less high profile than the Syrian crisis, many people in Myanmar have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been affected by devastating floods and landslides which have engulfed homes and cut off vast parts of the country. Many people have lost all their possessions and been forced into camps as their homes remain under water.

The Diocese is partnering with the Anglican Relief and Development Fund (ARDF) in its work to support victims of flooding in Myanmar. ARDF exists to empower Anglicans in the developing world to show the love of Christ to those in need in their own communities.

The Diocese of Winchester is calling on people in all its parishes to donate generously to these two very worthy causes.

If you would like to make a donation to either of these causes, please visit the Diocese of Winchester’s JustGiving page via the button below.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

To download prayers for Myanmar and the Syrian refugee crisis click Prayers.

Tattoos for women scarred by domestic abuse

Brazilian tattoo artist Flavia Carvalho aims to creatively and beautifully change the way women deal with scarring from domestic violence and mastectomies through her project, “A Pele da Flor,” which translates to “Skin of the Flower”

Carvalho has been providing beautiful tattoos to women as an artistic way to cover up the scarring for two years now.

Scar 2

The best part? Carvalho does the tattoos for free.

“The idea of the project is very simple: It is a voluntary service for tattooing over scars that have resulted from domestic violence or from mastectomies,” she told The Huffington Post in an interview. “I run the project alone, since no other tattoo artist has expressed interest in participating. I started the project quite recently, and I had no idea it would receive this much media attention. It began very spontaneously. As I said, my services are a hundred percent voluntary, and the only “cost” women need to invest is to choose a design for their tattoos!”

Scar 1

Carvalho says that the idea came to her a few years ago when a client was looking to get a tattoo to cover a large scar on her abdomen.

“She told me that she was at a nightclub, and when she turned down a man who approached her, he stabbed her with a switchblade. When she saw the finished tattoo, she was extremely moved, and that deeply touched me. I was suddenly struck by the idea of providing free tattoos to women who were left with scars following domestic violence or mastectomies. Each tattoo would act as an instrument for empowerment and a self-esteem booster.”

Scar 3

“I love doing tattoos that restore the self-esteem of women!” she exclaimed

Archbishop of Canterbury on the refugee crisis

In a statement on the refugee crisis facing Europe and the Middle East, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, said today:

Justin Welby

“This is a hugely complex and wicked crisis that underlines our human frailty and the fragility of our political systems. My heart is broken by the images and stories of men, women and children who have risked their lives to escape conflict, violence and persecution.

“There are no easy answers and my prayers are with those who find themselves fleeing persecution, as well as those who are struggling under immense pressure to develop an effective and equitable response. Now, perhaps more than ever in post-war Europe, we need to commit to joint action across Europe, acknowledging our common responsibility and our common humanity.

“As Christians we believe we are called to break down barriers, to welcome the stranger and love them as ourselves (Leviticus 19:34), and to seek the peace and justice of our God, in our world, today.

“With winter fast approaching and with the tragic civil war in Syria spiralling further out of control, we must all be aware that the situation could yet worsen significantly.

“I am encouraged by the positive role that churches, charities and international agencies are already playing, across Europe and in Syria and the surrounding areas, to meet basic humanitarian needs. These efforts may feel trivial in the face of the challenge, but if we all play our part this is a crisis that we can resolve.

“We need a holistic response to this crisis that meets immediate humanitarian need while tackling itsunderlying drivers. I commend the UK Government for its strong commitment to the world’s poorest people through the delivery of the aid budget. It has shown global leadership by providing £900 million in aid since 2012 to the crisis in Syria. It has also shown moral leadership in using Royal Navy ships to save the lives of hundreds who have tried to make the dangerous crossing across the Mediterranean.

“I hold in my heart particularly those who are most vulnerable in conflict, and those who we have a special duty to protect. In the past, the Government has rightly sought to provide sanctuary to unaccompanied children, women and those who have been victims of, or are at risk of, sexual violence. I welcome this, while urging a renewed commitment to taking in the most vulnerable.

“The Church has always been a place of sanctuary for those in need, and Churches in the UK and across Europe have been meeting the need they are presented with. I reaffirm our commitment to the principle of sanctuary for those who require our help and love.

“The people of these islands have a long and wonderful history of offering shelter and refuge, going back centuries – whether it be Huguenot Christians, Jewish refugees, Ugandan Asians, Vietnamese boat people or many, many more.

“It has always been controversial at the time it happened, always been seen as too difficult. Yet each time we have risen to the challenge and our country has been blessed by the result.

“We cannot turn our backs on this crisis. We must respond with compassion. But we must also not be naïve in claiming to have the answers to end it. It requires a pan-European response – which means a commitment to serious-minded diplomatic and political debate, but not at the expense of practical action that meets the immediate needs of those most in need of our help.”

Listen to Archbishop Justin Welby speaking to the BBC about the refugee crisis