This is exactly how churches should respond to local poverty

If you need a shoulder to cry on, there’s always someone here

We visited the Parson Cross Initiative at Mount Tabor Church in Sheffield one Friday morning, and spoke to eight people who have had cause to use the centre’s food bank. Here, Hollie tells what led her to need support, and says more churches should follow the lead of Mount Tabor.

I started coming to the food bank for food parcels, then I came to the Tuesday cooking group and started helping out, and that has progressed to me doing the pop-up bakery on Fridays. That started four weeks ago, baking things for the food bank. When people come to the food bank they can also get sandwiches, cakes and buns – we’ve made some ham and cheese sandwiches this morning, and everyone gets fed.

 

I live near here in Parson Cross. For me, it was benefit problems that brought me here. With the deductions, I was on very low income. I have a six-year-old daughter who needs looking after and I came here for food parcels. They were so nice and welcoming, and very friendly. If you need a shoulder to cry on, there’s always someone here who will help and listen to you. 

 

They had stopped my ESA and put me on JSA, and I went five weeks with no money. I had to pursue it to tribunal and I got the ESA back, but I had gone five weeks with no money, then had been on JSA, then had three weeks with nothing again before getting back to ESA around May last year. 

 

I had started coming here even before then though. Citizens Advice said to come here. I was struggling with deductions for old rent arrears. Behind my back, an ex had not been paying, and there were arrears. He accrued a lot then did a runner, so there’s nothing they can do but chase me, and I’m still getting deductions now. So I get £120 a fortnight for me and my daughter. What should the Government do? Stop being so tight. Without the deductions, I don’t know if it would be enough. Maybe, maybe not. And it’s so much harder in the holidays. That’s when I definitely have to come to the food bank. 

 

This is the only place I know of that does this. I think more churches should do this and help the community more, and meet the community more as well, because this place is really good. 

The bigger picture

Hollie was one of eight people we spoke to on a recent visit to the Parson Cross Initiative, which works with community groups and churches in its part of Sheffield to help meet local needs. The project grew from, and is based at, Mount Tabor Methodist Church. You can read the others here: 

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What would it mean for your church, or for the church as a whole, to become a church of the poor? We researched this in 2016, and published this report.

Hollie and the others who we interviewed spoke about hunger, and the various factors that led to them and their families becoming trapped in poverty. 

Issues such as holiday hunger, benefit delays, loss of work and income are widespread. Stories like Hollie’s have helped to shape the End Hunger UK campaign, with which we are involved.

The campaign sets out nine potential Government policies, all of which would help to reduce hunger and poverty, all of which are based on the real experiences of people like Hollie. Please take a few moments to look at those nine ideas, to contact local groups working to alleviate poverty in your area, and to speak to your MP to ask them to help end hunger.

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