Soup runs for Westminster Homeless to Stay

Soup runs can continue in the piazza...
H/T A Reluctant Sinner

Good news and a victory for religious freedom and yes, even common sense. I still have to say, however, that I am getting sick and tired of news agencies, Councils, authorities, reporters and perhaps even homeless charities - all who are involved with the homeless - talking about them, but not to them and with them.

People talk of soup runs as causing dependence and the rest but once again, when news agencies want the views of homeless men and women on a subject like the effectiveness of soup runs, why do they never consider asking the homeless? They do, after all, have voices and views and opinions! Would that in itself not be a little bit of empowerment for those who remain voiceless? Why do people always think that the poor need spokespersons, but then never seek spokespersons among the poor!? Isn't it funny how its always a rich guy speaking on the poor guy's behalf? Always!

In all of the reporting on this issue, I did not see one quote, not one, from a homeless man or homeless woman who sleeps in the piazza. Anyone would have thought they were lepers or something. The Council want to know whether soup runs are 'effective' and who do they ask? The Libyan School of Economics! Reporters want to know about the impact upon the homeless of the proposal. Who do they ask? Housing Justice or some other charity! Meanwhile, the actual people the proposal concerns are sitting in the piazza.

Anyway, with all that said, well done to all those who both within and without the Cathedral, campaigned and worked behind the scenes to help Westminster City Council's Daniel Astaire and others to acknowledge that draconian legislation against the feeding of the homeless is probably not a concrete, fair, just, loving or even effective answer to the problem of homelessness around the piazza.

Courtesy of the Press Association

'Soup runs for the homeless will not be banned from a part of central London after a council U-turn, MPs have been told. Commons leader Sir George Young said Westminster City Council was now taking an "enlightened approach" and would allow soup runs for the capital's rough sleepers.

There had been protests against the local authority's plans, which it said were justified because the handouts from the area around Westminster Cathedral kept the homeless on the streets for longer than necessary. The council also sought to introduce a by-law to ban rough sleeping around cathedral. On Thursday, Sir George said the Tory-run authority was now seeking a "non-legislative approach" but soup kitchens were more desirable when operating from "established" buildings rather than on-the-street.

He told shadow Commons leader Hilary Benn: "The portfolio holder at Westminster City Council (Cllr Daniel Astaire) has made it clear he wants a non-legislative solution. He plans to have discussions with those running the soup runs. It is already the case that two soup run providers have agreed to provide their services within a more settled environment and I welcome that. You might also look at some of the comments made by those helping rough sleepers about the desirability of trying to focus the soup runs within an established building rather than having a magnet which attracts rough sleepers from all over the capital. I very much hope we are at one on rough sleepers and that we can support Westminster City Council and the enlightened approach which they are now taking."

The council's consultation on rough sleepers will continue until March 25.'

Thanks be to God, because if Westminster City Council had got their way, then you can rest assured other Councils all across the UK would have moved in the same direction as well.

In concession to A Relucant Sinner and all who wonder, quite reasonably, whether soup runs are the best answer to homelessness, I can't help thinking of Fr Joseph Wresinski, Founder of ATD Fourth World, who despised soup runs as an insult to the dignity of the poor. On this issue, he criticised the approach of Abbe Pierre of Emmaus who was working along these lines. He was sent as parish priest to a slum camp of shacks on the outside of post-war Paris. As his biography says,

'In 1957, Joseph Wresinski and the families of the camp founded the first association which was later to become ATD Fourth World. Responding to the demands of the families and working with them, the soup kitchen and the distribution of old clothes were replaced with a library, kindergarden, chapel and workshop. Volunteers came to join the action and a Research Institute on extreme poverty was created to bring together researchers from different countries and disciplines.'

His belief was that the poor needed encouragement to speak for themselves in a society in which they had become marginalised, that being active participants in society would help them to rediscover their dignity, that they themselves had the best knowledge of their own situation and that if the World was ever to combat the scourge of poverty, it would do well to learn from the knowledge of poverty experienced by those who were actually experiencing it. All this he knew because he himself had been born into poverty and had experienced its degrading effects at first hand.

The ATD Fourth World movement is now active in over 27 countries worldwide. According to a Zenit report in February of last year, 'The cause for the beatification of French-born Father Wresinski (1917-1988) is now in its Vatican stage.' Fr Joseph Wresinski is more evidence that some things are so simple that the World cannot comprehend them.


Ryan said…
Laurence mate, are you under surveillance!
A press bloke asked if you "were firing the organ-grinder's bullits again".
Not a clue what he meant but it seems stuff has been going to A&B office diocese office again.
Ryan said…
Think its something to do with this in June-

45th World Day of Social Communications

Something about guidelines?
Mike said…
Yes there is a RC clerical and lay blog watch going on which includes comments so see you after June!