Blog

Image: Care and Share

12/10/2018

Kathleen McIntyre reflects on the service for the homeless developed by North Ayrshire churches.


Homelessness is a huge problem in Scotland and the consequences of this may include poor self-esteem and low confidence, loneliness and isolation, poverty, desperation and crime. There are also many physical problems associated with homelessness as well as mental health issues, which include depression, anxiety and withdrawal from society.
 
The main causes of homelessness include relationship breakdown, overcrowding, mortgage or rent arrears, individuals fleeing domestic violence or abuse, emergencies such as fire or flood, discharge from armed forces, hospital or prison or indeed losing a job.
 
Every area has its own set of difficulties, and in North Ayrshire the main cause of homelessness is addiction problems.
 
To combat the problem and support those who find themselves in this situation, the drop-in service known as Irvine Care and Share opened in October 2012.  It aims to help adults who are homeless, vulnerable to homelessness or who have been homeless. These adults may have an addiction problem, mental health issues or feel marginalised and isolated. 
 
The service is located in St Mary’s Church Hall in Irvine, Ayrshire and is open every Wednesday from 1pm-3pm. Service users can enjoy soup, a sandwich, biscuits tea or coffee, and there is also fresh fruit, as we take into account the nutritional value of the food.
 
Care and Share was initiated by Irvine Teen Challenge, which is linked to Fullarton Church. Teen Challenge is a registered charity that helps young people who have developed life-controlling or addiction problems. Irvine Teen Challenge wanted to use some of its funds to set up a service in Irvine for the homeless.
 
They had heard about Ayr Care and Share and felt Irvine would benefit from a similar service. That’s when they approached Neil Urquhart, the local minister, who gave his approval and support.  We then went along for a visit to Ayr Care and Share to see how it was being run and we were very impressed. Ayr Care and Share is held in the Riverside Church in Ayr and is mainly run by volunteers. They allowed us to use the name Care and Share as long as we followed their model of not having any direct reference to religion by praying or praise music as they felt that could make some feel excluded.
 
We then formed a committee and recruited volunteers from different churches in Irvine, St Mary’s, St Andrews Episcopal congregation, Mure church of Scotland and Fullarton Church of Scotland. 
 
We did not set up as a ‘lunch club’. We have various outside agencies visiting on a regular basis, including Teen Challenge, oral health, an optician, North Ayrshire Welfare Reform Teams, the NHS homelessness nurse, and Richmond Fellowship Addiction Services. Service users can access help and support from these agencies. We also have a hairdresser who comes in once a month and there are a number of activities and facilities, including laptops and printers.
 
We are completely self-funded. We have received donations from local businesses and volunteers collect at a local supermarket.
 
Best accolade? A service user designed our Care and Share poster and she wrote ‘Come along every Wednesday and enjoy a free light lunch, share in a supportive non-judgemental fellowship, develop new friendships and gain access to various local services/agencies.’ We hope that says it all.


Image: Campaigners urge MSP's for a strong Climate Change Bill

05/10/2018

Kenneth Sadler, Justice and Peace Scotland commissioner from Aberdeen made the journey to the Scottish Parliament to join with around 70 other people in urging our MSPs to aim high on the environment.


On Wednesday 19 September around 70 people from across Scotland gathered in the Harry Younger Hall near the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh to demand strong and radical action on climate change. This Climate Change Lobby was organised by Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, a coalition of organisations brought together to campaign for climate justice, which includes SCIAF and Justice and Peace Scotland among its members.


Before lobbying started, Tom Ballantine of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland reminded us that public pressure on MSPs helped increase Scotland’s climate ambitions in 2009; and Sally Foster-Fulton of Christian Aid Scotland spoke passionately about the importance of working for environmental justice for our brothers and sisters in the global south, who suffer most through climate change despite having done least to cause it.


Our main goal was to persuade MSPs that, in the light of our responsibilities under the Paris Agreement, Scotland should adopt a target of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at the latest, supported by an interim target of a 77% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.


As I am from Aberdeen, I was part of the North East Scotland group of lobbyists. We saw three MSPs, from Labour, the SNP and the Conservatives respectively, and made clear to each of them the need for the strongest possible Climate Bill. Reflecting the positions of the three parties, our aim of a clear target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 was supported by Labour, while the SNP and Conservative representatives did not agree with this key demand. However, we were able to have informative discussions with all the MSPs we met.


It was ironic, frustrating, yet curiously appropriate that the arrangements for the Climate Change Lobby had to be changed due the extreme weather event of Storm Ali. And given the challenging conditions it was natural that the travel plans of those from outwith Edinburgh were likewise affected by road closures and train cancellations.


In the evening before getting a coach or, if I was lucky, a train back to Aberdeen, I took a walk from the east end of Princes Street to the Scottish Parliament itself, having neglected to make the short journey from the Harry Younger Hall earlier. Visiting Holyrood again in the Edinburgh gloaming was a moving experience for me, being of the generation that grew up in the aftermath of the 1979 referendum in which Scotland voted for devolution but was denied because of the ‘40% rule’. During the 80s the kind of Scottish autonomy that we now take for granted seemed a distant dream.


The Climate Change Lobby which so many of us had participated in earlier that day to argue for environmental justice was an example of democracy in action.

Whatever our views on Scotland’s constitutional status, we should all be grateful that we have the Parliament in Edinburgh as a forum where people of goodwill can work together for the sake of the common good.



Image: Nae Nukes Anywhere

28/09/2018

This week, in our blog, Ellen Charlton reflects on a day of anti-nuclear protest and the Church’s stance.


On an exceptionally bright and sunny day in late September hundreds of kindred spirits from all airts and pairts walked the mile from the Peace Camp to the North Gate of the Ministry of Defence nuclear base at Faslane. We came from all over the UK and further afield - America, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands - to protest against the threat of nuclear weapons and to promote respect for life.


We each had our reasons for being there. I carried with me the perspective of the Catholic Church.


Although many of us understand our church’s stance on other moral and ethical issues, her position on nuclear weapons and disarmament seems less clear. Some even believe that the Church has no views on this (or worse, that it should hold no views.)


But the Church has for more than 50 years been consistent in its condemnation of nuclear weapons. In 1963, Pope John XXIII, in his document Pacem in Terris, wrote ‘Justice, right reason and consideration for human dignity and life urgently demand that the arms race should cease.’ And in 1982, the Scottish Bishops’ Pastoral Letter, stated ‘If it is immoral to use these weapons, it is also immoral to threaten their use.’


That consistency was clear on 7 July 2017, when a long-sought, multilaterally negotiated treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted at the UN in New York. Just one state voted against it, 122 states voted in favour. It opened for signature on 20 September and will remain open for all states to sign and ratify.


Over 50 states signed on the first day. One of the first to sign was the Holy See.
When this Treaty becomes law, its framework will facilitate the cancellation of the Trident replacement, and the dismantling and elimination of existing UK nuclear weapons. Bishop William Nolan on behalf of the Scottish Bishops’ Conference helped draft a recent statement, subsequently signed by the leaders of all the major Scottish churches, calling on the UK government to sign the Treaty.


Among us on that day in September there had been members of the UK government to listen to the horrifying statistics proffered by Kathy Galloway of the Iona Community. Good that they had heard Scottish Makar, Jackie Kay, speak of her adoptive parents protesting against Polaris in the early 1960s and being imprisoned (her father in a police cell, her mother in a Catholic church) for their efforts.


We heard a visitor from the US, who spoke of his despondency and anxiety when trying to engage fellow Americans in real debate on nuclear issues, saying that most of his countrymen had little knowledge or understanding of the implications of nuclear weapons and their potential for destruction. ‘For the most part they just do not understand and do not want to make the effort to understand.’


His despair reminded me of the words of the Anglo-American poet T.S Eliot, ‘…human kind cannot bear very much reality’. But this is a reality we must all face, and face it urgently.
 




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