“Channel 4’s Benefits Street programme shows why we need to stand alongside people in poverty," says Niall Cooper, Director of Church Action on Poverty.
"The storm of abuse the series has whipped up is based on prejudice, on the part of both TV commissioners and the general public.
"Churches are part of the communities where benefit recipients and homeless people live, and know the realities behind sensationalist media coverage.
"Poverty and Homelessness Action Week is a chance for us to make those voices heard,” says Mr Cooper.
At the end of this month, the seventh annual Action Week will see churches across the UK giving, acting and praying in solidarity with people who are pushed to the edge of our society.
Running from 25 January to 2 February 2014, the Week includes Homelessness Sunday and Poverty Action Sunday, which have been marked by churches across Britain for many years.
The Week challenges Christians to take notice of the poverty, exclusion and injustice around them – and to speak out. It supports the work of three Christian charities: Church Action on Poverty, Housing Justice, and Scottish Churches Housing Action.
Churches can get involved by using free resources available on the website www.actionweek.org.uk. The materials highlight stories from the work of the three partner organisations – including challenging stigmatisation, organising night shelters, and providing affordable homes – and encourage churches to tackle poverty and homelessness in their own communities.
Dozens of supporters have already published their plans for the Action Week. A map on the website shows events across the country, including church services, 'Question Time' evenings, workshops on inequality, sponsored sleep-outs and full-scale conferences.
Poverty and Homelessness Action Week is an annual opportunity for churches of all denominations to demonstrate solidarity with people who live in poverty or experience homelessness and other forms of social exclusion. In 2014 it runs from 25 January to 2 February.
The Poverty and Homelessness Action Week partners are Church Action on Poverty (www.church-poverty.org.uk), Housing Justice (www.housingjustice.org.uk) and Scottish Churches Housing Action (www.churches-housing.org).