It’s nearly Christmas – again – it only seems like moments since the busiest time of the year for Hope, last came around.
This is perhaps because we are busy all the time. Homelessness and poverty is for life, not just Christmas. We have seen no respite in the numbers of people coming to us who receive no help from any other quarter, who have been turned away from emergency provision, and are on the street, at risk and vulnerable. Official data – which we believe seriously underestimates the numbers who are actually homeless – bears this out.
As the Joseph Rowntree report published today shows (, poverty is increasing daily in the UK. Everybody knows it, and they are now also realising one of the key facts about it: work will not lift you out of poverty. Once people thought that work would be the thing that enabled people with complex problems to get back into society. Now, with cuts to in-work benefits, and a stark gap between minimum wages and ever increasing housing, fuel and food costs, the financial incentive to get jobs, at the unskilled level, is threatened. Increasingly we see the working poor in our services, and getting them into jobs doesn’t make the difference it should do and which they deserve. It’s disheartening for us too, as we work tirelessly to get people work ready and motivate them to get training, skills and confidence for working.
This means the work Hope does is needed more than ever, and this Christmas, as every Christmas, the people of Northampton go that extra mile to support Hope. Cars arrive laden with gifts and food, donations of clothes and blankets. People offer their time and best wishes. Given we are running SWEP, the emergency weather shelter this year, as the Council are no longer doing so, we need help with sleeping bags, food and additional volunteers to staff the shelter during those cold nights that are coming, and prepare a hot meal when people come in. Please contact Hope if you can help.
We thank all our donors who have helped this year: people who brought in a few clothes, or a bag of tins, right through to corporate donors and trusts. We value you equally. Everyone who gives, makes a real difference, alongside our staff and volunteers. When you talk to donors, alongside gifts from people with a straightforward compassion and charitable nature, given with joy and hope, you find out some give because of a personal experience – a son with a drink problem, previous life experience of mental ill-health, or because a relative has died; some give because it helps alleviate their own sadness and loss. In despair and pain, not for self-seeking reasons, not for reward or recognition, not for honours or prestige, some still think to give to our customers, the most excluded, the most hurt, the most shattered of all by the juggernaut of increasing poverty. We are all the same; we are all at risk. We have to look after each other. Thanks to everyone for supporting, and spreading Hope in Northampton. Thanks for helping us to offer solace to the most excluded of all. Have a great Christmas, everyone who is a friend of Hope, and who cares about poverty and homelessness. Stay with us throughout next year too X.