Stop stigmatising the poor and homeless, churches tell politicians and media

By staff writers
21 Jan 2013

Churches and Christian groups across Britain are marking a national week of action by speaking out against the stigmatisation and exclusion of people who are poor or homeless.

The annual Poverty and Homelessness Action Week (26 January – 3 February 2013) is exploring the theme ‘Can you cast the first stone? It will offer a Christian challenge to the growing demonisation of vulnerable people by politicians and the media.

The Week will also celebrate the resilience of people who cope with poverty and homelessness, and the work done by Christian organisations who empower those people, organisers say.

As well as hundreds of local church services and other events, the Week will feature the launch of some major national initiatives. Church Action on Poverty is to publish The blame game must stop, a report into the stigmatisation of people on low incomes, with hard-hitting case studies showing the impact on people’s lives.

Meanwhile, the charity Housing Justice is to launch an online resource called ‘My Story’, enabling people with personal experience of homelessness to share their testimonies.

Scottish Churches Housing Action is also celebrating the launch of Whitebeam Homes, a new project offering affordable housing across Scotland.

Niall Cooper, National Coordinator of Church Action on Poverty, commented: “It is appalling that the UK’s economic crisis and rising levels of poverty and homelessness are being blamed on those who are actually feeling their worst effects.

"Politicians and the media use abusive language and images, and fuel mistrust by contrasting supposed ‘strivers’ with ‘skivers’. They use this blame game to justify cuts to our safety net, which will drive hundreds of thousands of people further into poverty.

"In Poverty and Homelessness Action Week, we are saying that a blame culture is not the way to make things better. We won’t tackle poverty and homelessness by blaming those who suffer most from them. We need to stop the blame game now.”

The Action Week is supported by many national Christian denominations and agencies.

The Anglican Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said: “We are living in tough times where six out of 10 families in poverty have at least one adult in work. We need to do more to help those in need and ensure people are being paid a Living Wage. People without homes, who are sleeping rough on our streets, are amongst the most vulnerable people in our world.

"As a Church we are called to care for and support the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in society. Homelessness is a problem which forces us to reconsider the values on which we are building our society. Homelessness can affect absolutely anyone. During Poverty and Homelessness Action Week I hope people will think about how they can bring practical help to those suffering in their communities.”

Free resources available to help churches and individuals get involved in Action Week include: an outline for a church service; a DVD of video stories; an online prayer calendar; and an e-action which will enable you to write to your local newspaper about the ‘blame game’.

* For more information and to take part, go to: www.actionweek.org.uk

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