Church groups concerned with housing and poverty are inviting people to share, exchange and re-use what they have to combat the hardships of the economic downturn.
The call began on Saturday and at church services and events across the country starting yesterday (Sunday 31 January).
As bankers across the world count their bonuses in thousands or millions, and finance chiefs seek to scupper regulatory plans at the Davos summit, alternative economic ideas are the focus of Poverty and Homelessness Action Week 2010.
The ‘12 Baskets’ initiative provides ideas for individuals and communities to respond to the recession by living more simply and sharing what they have more effectively.
Poverty and Homelessness Action Week runs through to Sunday 7 February, and includes both Homelessness Sunday and Poverty Action Sunday.
The event 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.
During the week, many local activities will take place across the UK, including church services, awareness-raising events and activities in schools.
Resources available on www.actionweek.org.uk  include worship guides, materials for work with children and young people, and other ideas, along with a map of events across the UK.
The ‘12 Baskets’ handbook takes its title from the biblical story of the feeding of the 5,000, when all the people “ate and were filled. When they collected the leftover pieces, there were 12 baskets” (Luke 9.17).
The guide contains examples of practical ways in which people already share hospitality, food, transport and lifestyles, to the benefit of individuals and their communities.
These include schemes such as Nightstop which provide emergency accommodation in hosts’ own homes. Ethical banking opportunities, furniture recycling and food co-operatives all feature.
“The recession is not just a crisis but also a time for us to explore new ways of doing things. We have had enough of an economic system built on greed and selfishness. There is another way,” says the Poverty & Homelessness Action Week manifesto.
“There is so much more that people can do to tackle poverty and homelessness than raising money through sponsored sleep-outs, welcome as the funds are,” said Alison Gelder, Chief Executive of Housing Justice.
She emphasised that “You don’t need to be a church or even a Christian to take part. It’s only by communities of all kinds pulling together that we can change things for the better.”
Alastair Cameron, the Chief Executive of Scottish Churches Housing Action, added: “The gap between rich and poor is growing. But everyone can help to close it by operating outside the cash economy – through the basics of helping each other, sharing our insights and our skills and showing that there are other ways of living our life.”
The Poverty & 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 ).
Copies of ‘12 Baskets’ can be downloaded here, in *.PDF Adobe Acrobat format: http://www.housingjustice.org.uk/publications/temp/12_baskets.pdf