Our eldest daughter Catherine and her boyfriend Tim are going to spend a night out on 23 April in the Madejski stadium in Reading. They are raising sponsorship for the Reading Single Homeless project — donate (Just Giving) here. RSHP provides affordable accommodation and support for people who, having experienced homelessness, are vulnerable and socially excluded.
It’s similar work to that done by Padstones, a charity of which I’m president that provides intermediate accommodation for young singles in South Bucks. Their centres are fully staffed so as to provide not just a roof over your head when things have gone wrong, but freinds and the stability of a community as you get set up for the future. Average stay is under a year, but the need is increasingly acute.
Churches have been at the forefront of raising awareness on homelessness. In Wycombe, along with the English Churches Housing Group hostel, the old tea warehouse, local congregations take turns to run a Wycombe Winter Night Shelter of their own using their resources and premises, organised by the Revd Paul Willis. I was struck earlier this year by this report from St Stephen’s Soundwell, in Bristol, about their sleepout last November. It’s very much a “Go Ye and Do Likewise” job, say I:
As with all the charities I am involved with working in this area, there have been grants and other sources of aid, but the backbone of the activity is voluntary fundraising. As we contemplate reduced future government spending, it’s very important that this kind of work doesn’t lose out to the billions spent on management consultants (no offence) and causes like idiotic jumbo computer systems for the NHS. The latest score there is that a big order that was placed in 1999 at a cost of £1BN to be delivered by 2005. It’s still not fully delivered and is currently set to cost £4BN. Thus the money goes, private contractors and consultants rake in the cash, and the poor starve on the streets. It’s hard to put a kind construction on this reality, really, even in election year...