The story does not end here …

The Birmingham Hunger Journal blog now contains all the stories which were collected during the End Hunger Fast campaign in Lent 2013. We invite you to use it as a resource, to share the stories of the reality of the many people in 21st century Britain who are still going hungry or are reliant on charity to survive. We invite you to help counter the media and political myths which fail to represent many people’s reality, to help build a compassionate society which cares for its most vulnerable.

Hopefully this campaign and this blog, has given a voice to some of those vulnerable people. We can continue to be that voice. We can continue to call for the equality and justice which allows everyone to feed themselves and their families.

This is the end of the blog but it is not the end of the story.

Because for those who told there stories, and thousands like them in our city, the story of struggle continues as a daily reality.

Because no-one in 21st Century Britain should go hungry.

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Stories from SIFA Fireside (4)

As well as collecting stories and raising awareness, during the End Hunger Fast campaign, money was collected to help support SIFA Fireside’s work. To find out more abou what they do, or make a donation, visit their website: http://www.sifafireside.co.uk/

Client #16 has been living rough for in excess of two years. Due tocriminal convictions it was impossible for him to access hostel accommodation so he became an entrenched rough sleeper, living in a tent. As he had no address, he was unable to claim any form of benefit to help him with any living costs. Therefore he relied on begging to help him survive but found this was not enough to live off. Therefore food parcels, comprised of items that did not need cooking, were provided.

Client #17 was a victim of domestic violence which subsequently led her to be made homeless. As she was in her teens, she was not entitled to any JSA or Income support of high value and she also became addicted to heroin which is where most of the money she made went. Unfortunately, she turned to crime to feed her addiction and did not see anything else as important other than obtaining her next fix. Whilst she was provided with a refuge, which was paid for by housing benefit, she was not eating as money was spent on drugs. Food parcels were provided for her, so that she definitely had a source of nourishment readily available, rather than cash which she would not spend on essential items such as food.

Client #18 is an ex-member of Her Majesty’s forces, who found himself homeless and suffers PTSD. He tried to go to the job centre for help, but felt embarrassed and treated like a second class citizen, so made the decision not to pursue a claim, but instead would rather sell the Big Issue for a living. Whilst this made him some money, this was not sufficient enough to pay rent for his hostel accommodation, his daily living expenses and other bills, so he relied on food parcels for nutrition.

Client #19 is a single mother of two, who cannot claim any assistance for her children as they reside with her mother. She does, however, have them a couple of nights a week, but finds her age means she does not receive much income support, so does not have enough disposable income to buy her children treats and nice food when they stay over. She relies on food parcels to live off and saves any spare cash from doing so to treat her children.

Client #20 is long term unemployed due to his criminal record. He has been claiming JSA for a few years and even though he has been applying for jobs and working with the job club to try and find employment he finds his criminal record stops him getting anything stable. He is currently living in private rented accommodation but is not able to keep up with the bills and because of this uses our drop-in for breakfast and lunch so that he can just afford to live in his accommodation and not starve each day.

Stories from SIFA Fireside (3)

Sifa Fireside’s services are literally a lifeline for some of Birmingham’s most vulnerable adults. Some of them were willing to share their stories with the hunger journal:

Client #11 is currently homeless and is unable to receive any benefits. He has been on the streets for some time now and his only source of income is either begging or stealing. He got kicked out of his home when he was a teenager and fled to Birmingham as a result to try and start a new life. While here he got caught up with some heavy drugs but has now been off them for multiple years. He is using our resources for meals and food parcels so that he is able to get the nutrition to survive each day.

Client #12 is currently living in hostel accommodation but has been between the streets and hostels for multiple years. He is currently on ESA due to his mental health but because of his mental health he also has very poor budgeting skills. He is able, with support, to get his accommodation and bills paid but has trouble with the remainder of his income. Because of this he is usually finding himself with no money and no food,  so he ends up using our drop-in to access at least two meals a day.

Client #13 is currently homeless because he has recently been sanctioned. He got sanctioned because he was running late for one of his appointments and even though he turned up he was late and as a result got sanctioned. He now has no income apart from begging and because of this he is unable to afford accommodation or daily food. Now he has to use our resources for meals every day as well as food parcels.

Client #14 has been in the “system” since he was ten years old. He moved around from foster home to care home throughout his childhood. During his adult life he has been in and out of jail as well as spending times in supported housing as well as living on the streets. Because of his criminal record he has found it almost impossible to get fulltime employment. He laos has been working with mental health tems to deal with his mental health issues throughout his adult life. He is currently rough sleeping and trying to get mental health support from Sifa as well as accommodation support. Because of his situation he is having to use our service for both breakfast and lunch, as well as receiving food parcels just so that he has something to eat everyday.

Client #15 was made homeless a couple of years ago, following the loss of his rented accommodation, which the landlord sold. Rather than going into hostel accommodation, he was fortunate enough to stay with relatives, sofa surfing between his father’s and his sister’s house. He had claimed ESA but due to a previous overpayment was having his benefit reduced each week so was not receiving the full amount. He accessed the service for help finding accommodation as he had outstayed his welcome at his family’s homes. Whilst he was successfully helped to source a shared property, he had to pay money up front and contribute towards the rent as he was only entitled to the shared room rate of £56.21 per week in Local Housing Allowance. After paying the rent and other bills, this left him unable to pay for food to live on each week so he accessed food parcels, through the service for additional support.

Stories from SIFA Fireside (2)

Based in Digbeth, Sifa Fireside provides a daily drop-in service including breakfast and lunch, alcohol recovery support, benefits and housing advice and training.

Client #6 has recently fled his home country. Because of the reason that he fled, he is unwilling to return there. Now that he is here he is unable to work due to legal reasons, he has no income and cannot apply for any benefits. He is currently rough sleeping and is very grateful for our services where he is able to get two meals a day which he is able to survive off.

Client #7 is currently homeless due to alcohol and drug misuse. He got caught up with the drug trade as a young adult and has been trying to avoid the scene since he started to work on becoming clean. He has chosen to sleep on the streets because when he goes into hostel accommodation, he finds that leads him back into drinking and drug taking again. He is currently not on benefits and makes his income through begging. Because of his situation he uses our resources for the drop-in where he is able to get breakfast and lunch, as well as receive food parcels.

Client #8 is self-employed but claims his business is not making any money, but as a result of being self-employed he cannot claim any benefits. He has zero disposable income so relies on food parcels for support.

Client #9 has now been homeless for almost two years. He became homeless due to trauma caused when he lost his partner two years ago and turned to alcohol to help him deal with the loss. This grief is still greatly affecting him where he is unable to do basic daily requirements. He has only just applied for ESA due to his alcohol misuse, but he is still waiting for everything to be processed. He is using our services every day for food and has been for over a year now and knows without our service he probably wouldn’t have made it this far because he would only have been taking in alcohol and no nutrition.

Client #10 is living in a shared and has been able to find employment but it is only part-time. Because of this he is unable to claim benefits but is barely making enough money to pay for his accommodation and bills. Due to his situation he is considering quitting his job so that he can claim benefits because this would lead to a greater income. Currently, though he is working part time but needs our resources to be able to eat every day without starving.

Stories from SIFA Fireside (1)

The Sifa Fireside Centre works with some of the city’s most vulnerable people, including rough sleepers, the vulnerably housed and those prone to addiction and mental health issues. They collected the stories of some of their service usersto share how people have ended up in such desperate situations:

Client #1 comes to Sifa for support with accommodation and alcohol misuse. He is able to support his own breakfast but is not able to afford lunch. This client comes to Sifa every day for lunch and to meet up with friends. He works with a support worker here when his life starts to really get on top of him. This is mainly due to his addiction. “Overall this place has been a lifeline for me and my friends who are also in need”

Client #2 has been long-term unemployed and has been using Sifa for support with unemployment as well as with mental health issues. He has been using SIfa not only for the drop-in where he is able to get breakfast and lunch but he also takes part in the activity opportunities including the job club. “I suffer with mental health issues and have been able to help out with volunteering work which has kept me occupied without getting too stressed out.”

 

Client #3 has been finding it difficult to find fulltime employment and because of this he has been living with a lack of finances. He has been using the job club here at Sifa to help with finding employment and has found the jobcentre to be very unsupportive. He has been waiting almost two months now for a forklift training course but has been told that it is most likely not going to happen now because of lack of funding. “I am on JSA but am still struggling to pay all my bills such as the council tax and because of this I am having to use Sifa’s food resources so I can get at least two meals a day.”

 

Client #4 is using Sifa because he needs the support of the agency. He has an alcohol misuse issue, mental health issue and needs the social support because he has no family or relatives. He has had a lack of support his whole life and struggles to cook even simple meals on his own. “Because of this I come in for breakfast and lunch everyday so that I can eat a cooked meal and also socialise with friends who also use the drop-in.

Client #5 has just been released from prison and is currently sofa-surfing with friends. Because of his criminal record he has been finding it very difficult to find employment. He is currently applying for benefits  but the process has been taking multiple weeks and he still has not been receiving any income. He has been using our resources to shower, do his laundry, but most importantly he has been eating two meals a day at Sifa and receiving food parcels because of a lack of any income.

An avoidable tragedy?

There was a man whose name was L***. He lived in *** Road. He made a mistake on his application for Job Seeker’s Allowance. He received no money for twelve weeks. During the 12 weeks he was seen rummaging in the bins behind a chip shop. The owner of the chip shop got fed up with him rummaging through the bins and phoned the police, he was arrested for trespassing. He got a bit angry so was also arrested for section 5 public disorder. He was held for 36 hours then went to court. He was fined £300 and £35 costs. After being released he went home and hung himself. He was buried by the council. Only myself and one other person were at the funeral. I helped him out when I could.

Stories from the Hunger Hut (2)

Among the stories of desperation, were seeds and signs of hope and concern for others:

I have many folk knocking at the door but one stands out. An elderly lady came asking for a loaf of bread and some butter as she had nothing in her cupboard. It’s rare to see a more elderly person struggling so much with little help. This issue clearly reaches across the board.

Our (Sikh) temple currently provides over 1000 vegetarian meals per week to members of the community from different faiths and backgrounds. Every week we are seeing more people coming to our temple for food, money and support. We are reaching a level where we cannot help everyone as the need is so great and the numbers involved ever increasing.

I lost my job and was made redundant. I have been out of work 18 months and used foodbanks regularly. I have to choose between food or gas. The foodbanks are very generous. Government need to do something about it. Even working people are using these schemes.