Do you feel helpless when you think about how to alleviate poverty and eradicate homelessness? These are massive problems of course, but there are many small things we can do to help make a difference. Below are a few actions, directly and indirectly related to poverty and homelessness. I challenge you to pick one (or all!) and start making that small difference today…
Your money: If you are fortunate enough to have money in the bank, your hard-earned cash is not just sitting there waiting for you to need it. It is being lent by your bank to other people / organisations. Do you know if your bank has an ethical policy and what they are supporting with your money? Your bank might be speculating on food prices, avoiding tax through the use of tax havens, investing in oil, nuclear and other polluting industries, paying absurdly large sums to employees and financing the arms trade. However there are alternatives – I’ve been really encouraged to read about the kind of organisations that Triodos invests in and the positive impact they are having with the money that people like us have deposited with them. For example, their customers include Bristol Community Trust and 1625 Independent People both of whom work with homeless people to improve their lives. Could you change your bank to one that works for good? See Money, money, money for further information.
Food: It is shocking that so many people have to rely on food banks, surprisingly even those who are in work. I’ve found the research undertaken by Church Action on Poverty very informative. For example, their report Walking the Breadline highlights that the single most common reason for people to need food aid is that their benefits have been changed, delayed or stopped. Action needs to be taken to stop our benefits system (in theory a safety net for those who are unable to support themselves) making people destitute. It is shocking that the poor have even less to spend on basic essentials like food due to the Poverty Premium – the fact that the poor are forced to pay higher costs for fuel, finance and furniture. As well as taking the actions suggested by Church Action on Poverty to end the need for foodbanks, can you find your nearest foodbank and get involved?
Campaigning: As an individual it is difficult to feel that you can make any difference. However, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead) – I come across this quote frequently but each time am struck anew by its encouragement. There are many organisations who campaign for change, using people power. For example 38 Degrees and SumOfUs each have over 2 million members, and Avaaz has a massive 32.5 million members worldwide! Can you get involved with a campaign to end injustice? Current campaigns include Oxfam’s “Ask your MP to lift lives for good” the Gagging Law and the forced use of “terminator seeds” in Brazil.
Climate change: It is a fact that the effects of climate change have a much larger impact on the poor and vulnerable. Hardly a day goes by when you don’t hear mention of fracking – to some it’s the answer to our energy security, to others it’s another disastrous step towards annihilating our planet. I’m supporting Friends of the Earth’s campaign against fracking as I have yet to be convinced that, at best, it isn’t just postponing the fact that we need significant investment in sustainable energy to ensure our future supply. Can you campaign against fracking too? Have a look at Utilities and technology for alternative energy suppliers you could use.