The Blog

The excesses of festive spending will have left many people dreading the January bills.

For those already struggling financially, the aftermath of the Christmas celebrations only adds to their financial woes and, according to a YouGov survey, household budgets are at breaking point, suggesting that many people will start the new year concerned about keeping their homes.

The survey reveals that families are the worst affected, with more than 70 per cent of rent or mortgage-payers with children currently struggling or falling behind with their payments.

Now homeless charity Shelter is warning that many people feeling overwhelmed by money worries will put off overdue bills until it is too late, putting their homes at even greater risk.

The findings revealed a worrying trend of people unable to face up to their financial difficulties, with nearly one-in-five saying they haven’t opened post if they thought it was a bill or late payment reminder.

A spokesman for debt support charity Christians Against Poverty, based in Bradford, says: “The research from Shelter is really interesting. Crucially, it is one in 11 Brits fearing rent or mortgage crisis. Our debt clients tell us that fear is a huge factor as they cope with too little money to cover their outgoings. In our own research, 64 per cent of people calling us for help feared losing their home and it’s that kind of stress that causes ill health, sleepless nights and relationship problems.

“There is also a significant fear about asking for help. It’s hard to know who to trust and what it will involve. I think people also hope that their situation will change and that they’ll come up with something, but debts are very hard to escape for the individual.

“Debt agencies like ours are negotiating with the same creditors all day long, so it is easier for us. The best advice is do something, call CAP or Stepchange, National Debtline or Citizens Advice. Don’t pay for debt help – all the above are free and trusted.”

Christians Against Poverty runs free money management sessions at venues across the Bradford district.

These are aimed at helping to get household budgets back into the black. Visit capmoney course.org for details.

Juli Thompson, project co-ordinator for Inn Churches, a network supporting the homeless and vulnerable by providing accommodation in Bradford churches over the winter months, says they have seen several people who have either lost or are at risk of losing their homes or who have been illegally evicted.

“Many people are living in fear of heating their homes due to cost. I am coming across couples who have been evicted for non-payment of rent – illegally evicted,” she says.

Juli says Inn Churches is working with an organisation called Warm Homes Healthy People to provide food parcels, bedding and clothing to those in need and they have also collected items through Bradford-based organisations Unltd and Participate. Feversham College in Bradford has decorated and packed 50 ‘gift boxes’ including £200 worth of toiletries donated by Robertson’s Pharmacy and Opticians in OtleyRoad, for the Inn Churches project, and donations have also been collected for St Augustine’s Foodbank.

Shelter’s advisers regularly see cases where people don’t ask for help until they reach crisis point. As it gets tougher to pay all the bills, people often feel overwhelmed and unsure where to turn.

Liz Clare, a helpline adviser at Shelter, says: “We’re now seeing a stream of cases of families who’ve been unable to cope with mounting rent or mortgage bills and feel at breaking point.

“We hear from people every day who are struggling. Our message to anyone struggling to pay their rent or mortgage is that we’re on your side. Come to us for help early on for the best chance of keeping your home.”

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, says: “It’s a worrying sign of the times that so many are starting the New Year worried about how they’ll pay their rent or mortgage in 2014. Unless they get help, some of the families struggling now could face the very real prospect of losing their home this year.

For more advice, visit www.shelter.org.uk/advice.

WHHP

Hundreds of vulnerable people in Airedale and across Bradford are set to benefit from an initiative aimed at keeping them warm and well this winter.

First Contact, which is designed to banish suffering and hardship caused by the cold weather, will see duvets, bedding, hats, gloves and shoes given to those identified as being at risk.It will also distribute food parcels to the most needy in the community, as well as offering advice on fuel debt, how to make homes more energy efficient, and home fire safety checks.

The referral scheme is funded by Bradford Council through its Warm Homes Healthy People Partnership. It is co-ordinated by the charity, Carers’ Resource, and supported by four community partners – Bradford and Airedale Citizens’ Advice Bureaux, Bradford Environmental Action Trust, Inn Churches and West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service.

“First Contact aims to link up services to reduce the risks associated with winter,” said Saiuqa Raney, who is leading the initiative on behalf of the Carers’ Resource. “The initiative is designed to keep vulnerable people in Bradford and Airedale warm and well over the coming months.

“Our focus is to provide real, immediate and direct help to the most needy and vulnerable.”

The programme, which runs until the end of March, will aim to cater for people aged 75 or over who are frail, suffering from arthritis, have limited mobility, are at risk of falls, or are elderly and living on their own.

Julia Burrows, the council’s consultant in public health, said: “First Contact forms the gateway into the Warm Homes Healthy People Partnership for people vulnerable to cold weather. It allows them to access a range of services from different agencies via a single point of contact. This includes access to warm clothes and bedding, food parcels, and advice on keeping your home warmer and more fuel efficient.”

Full eligibility criteria can be found at carersresource.org/first contact, and the referral form can also be completed online. Further information can also be accessed by calling 01274 449660.

Service

2012.11.09 – Service of Commemoration

Dedicated to the memory of Homeless People who died in the last two years. 

Housing Justice joined with Inn Churches and the Bradford Cathedral to organise a special service to remember the homeless and formerly homeless people who have died in the past year. In this year‘s service a list of 21 names were read out, including staff and volunteers from the many day centres, hostels churches and other agencies responding to the needs of homeless people.

 

Rev Dilly Baker, along with Rev Paul Riley and Juli Thompson led the Commemoration Service., It was an intimate and moving service. The service, gave a sense of dignity to all those who have died, many who never found a home and felt lost and excluded. The title of the service this year lead us to think about who we invite and welcome and the welcome that we provide, or fail to provide, for visitors, strangers, refugees, and neighbours.”

 

Suits On The Streets

A Huge THANK YOU to all of you that took part in our “Suits On The Streets” event.  We had a brilliant time, new connections made, the weather we booked arrived and awareness was raised.  ”It makes you think twice” “Oh my goodness how could they do this day after day” “I am humbled, and also upset by my previous attitude”. Were some of the comments from our “Suits”.  We also raised over £8,000 pounds.  God Bless you all.

Sovereign Health Care

A huge THANK YOU to jo and the team from Sovereign Health Care in Bradford.  We have just received a donation of £2,000 towards our winter shelter.  You are amazing, thank you for supporting local projects and making a difference!

St Cuthberts with Bolton Villas

We are very excited that St Cuthberts have come on board our hosting team this year.  We were delighted to see 35 volunteers turn out to attend the training session on the 11th of September.  We look forward to working with them soon.

Guardian

Yesterday I published a post about a children’s charity which was forced to set up its own mini-foodbank to feed the homeless children for whom it ran a Summer playscheme. Several readers contacted me to say that in the era of austerity and cuts, such gestures by frontline workers were not unusual. Here’s another example.
Earlier this year, Juli Thompson got a call from a housing association. Could she go and see a young woman living in a privately-rented flat nearby? There’d been a “concern” reported to them but there was not really much they could do over the weekend. So Juli popped round. The door was answered by a young woman, eight months pregnant. The flat had no bed or cooker, and the Mum-to-be – let’s call her Frankie – had been living on cold baked beans.
Frankie had no money – her benefits had been stopped – and no food. Official help can be found for people like Frankie: referrals can be made, forms filled in, bureaucratic wheels can be set in motion. But in the meantime? It was Friday afternoon and the local food bank was closed. So Juli went down to the shops and spent £40 of her own money on a food parcel, and £40 on a microwave oven for Frankie.
Dipping into her own pocket to help clients in need is not an unusual occurence for Juli. The charity she works for gets no regular statutory funding, but scrapes together “little pots of money” here and there and can draw on a 400-strong base of volunteers and supporters who can be relied on if the call goes out for in-kind help, such as food parcels. But sometimes, says Juli, it is simply easier to get out the debit card, and “just do it.”
On another occasion she got a phone call telling her that a former client, Joe, was being discharged from hospital on a weekend. She knew Joe, knew he was ill, and was painfully aware that he would have nowhere to stay. Her debit card came out again, to put him up in a local BnB for the night. She doesn’t begrudge paying from her own pocket from time to time: it’s her “moral compass” to help those in need, she says.
Juli, a 40-something former teacher and restaurateur works for a small Bradford-based charity, Inn Churches. It runs a homeless shelter during the winter months, but the deepening impact of recession and public spending cuts mean that people are now turning up to the charity for help “out of season” and as Juli puts it, is “hard to say no” to people who have no roof over their head, or who, like Frankie, need an immediate helping hand.
The numbers of people coming to the charity have increased in recent months: instances of rough sleeping in Bradford have “snowballed” in the past three years. Benefit cuts and sanctions are the main driver of demand, but she’s also had a social worker, a nurse and a small businessman come, as clients, to the charity. It is seeing families with children, pensioners and, increasingly, young single people who have been made homeless by new housing benefit restrictions.
Last winter Bradford council was able to offer Department of Health-fundedWarm Homes Healthy People cash to local voluntary groups like Inn Churches. Juli welcomed this: there was no time consuming paperwork, just a pot of money that they could draw on to purchase useful “stuff” for homeless clients like bus tickets (to get them to appointments at Department for Work and Pensions offices), food parcels and starter packs for those moving into unfurnished accommodation.
It’s not clear whether this funding will return. The DoH warned last year that “there can be no expectation of further funds being made available in future years.” Juli also worries about theshrinking social fund, which helps vulnerable people with crisis loans and grants for household essentials. The number of parcels given out by the local foodbank has doubled in the past two months. “The cuts are really starting to affect us in Bradford,” she says.
Juli is heartened by the way local people are rallying round. “On the back of the cuts people are being more generous. Cuts mean people are more aware of the situation our clients face.” A group of Bradford council workers decided to forgo lunch one day and donated the money they saved – £400 – to the charity; office workers who had won a company prize donated their gift vouchers, enabling Juli to buy a camp bed for a client.
Whether the likes of Inn Churches, and its generous donors will be able to meet with the expected flood of demand in the coming months is yet to be seen. For Juli, its simply important to try to “turn the negative around,” to respond to those in need. “We all need to pull together and work with the council and other agencies to support the most vulnerable.”
Juli was homeless herself for a year when she was younger: “It never leaves you, that feeling of being helpless.”
• Are you a charity or public services worker who has had to dip into their own pocket to help out clients as a result of funding cut backs? Email me:patrick.butler@guardian.co.uk or Twitter @patrickjbutler

Sam is Walking Across the Alps

After 10 years as Bishops Officer for Church in the World, I am leaving the diocese to begin a PhD on the church and social justice.  I am doing this hike as my contribution to support these important and effective projects. Inn Churches, @The Bus Stop, The Maryam Project, Stopping Sexual Exploitation, Assylum and Refugee Issues. I will be hiking for 10 days across Switzerland following the “Jakobsweg” part of the ancient pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.  The route will begin on the 23rd of August in St Peterzell in the Protestant German Apenzeller region, travelling through the centre of Switzerland and the Bernese Oberland and finishing in the French speaking Catholic region of Freiburg.

I will be keeping a blog samandjoehike.blogspot.com or you can contact sam.randall@bradford.anglican.org