What a rewarding day.
We have a huge homeless population and it is growing. “People that have fallen through the net” they say. I hate to say it but there is no net. Not any more. We are so dysfunctional, too many departments, case workers, social services, probation, police and the community care teams that have no common goal, not only from their own doing but from the machine that grinds them down and removes the humanity through red tape and fear.
I am now used to the relentless need to feed refugees, people from countries that have attacked their own people or who been attacked by people from other lands. Those fleeing from droughts caused by climate change and the natural disasters that make land inhabitable. Those fleeing their bankrupt and corrupt systems, fleeing hate and poverty but to have to feed people on the streets in a society that is so rich they have no real excuses just no moral compass.
Today I joined some friends and went to show some solidarity and volunteer my Sunday with Streets Kitchen in Hackney London.
I have always said the only difference between me and a homeless person is the roof over my head and luckily the support of a network that has given the support when needed and I have returned the favours to many. But when you don’t have those for what ever reason that is when the community should step in and this is exactly what Streets Kitchen is creating, a network of support and solidarity. They may not offer long term solutions yet but nobody is professing that that is the aim. They are there to show solidarity and not charity and today was a beautiful example.
Out of the chaos there is order.
We turned up at the warehouse and went down the list ticking things off as we piled them up ready to go in the trollies. Heather had this to a fine art.
Cups , Tea Urn, Plates, BBQ x3,
Banners – Streets Kitchen /Solidarity not charity
Clothes for the free shop
And so the list went on. Heather (long term volunteer and organiser) was finely tuned into what was going to be needed after having plenty of practice from Streets kitchen outreach. We packed DC’s van and set off via here and there picking up much needed supplies. All whilst on the phone talking Gazeebo’s and ice we approached London Fields.
Open arrival we were met of talk of security and other outreach groups had already cut deals of no political banners, no music, no notice boards, no this, no that. We appeased them with unsaid compromises and the banners stayed under the table for a little. Volunteers turned up from all walks and the formation of a BBQ and feast appeared in the middle of the park. It was a vision of grass roots solidarity. People that didn’t know each other making quick introductions then getting on with firing up the BBQ, laying out salads, Stacks of soft drinks in ice buckets everything you would want for a good feast.
Slowly one by one the security came to us and told us that we were doing a good thing and we sweet talked them into allowing a generator to start boiling some water to make hot drinks. When offered food they declined humbly as they were fasting and bingo we were all on the same side.
Before long the smell of the BBQ was to much and hard work put in by John (Long term volunteer) paid off and the Hackney Homeless Hunger Fest BBQ was exactly that. Homeless people and volunteers from all over came together and enjoyed good food, good company, laughter, compassion and no judgement.
And to top it off a chance of a haircut and a little boogie to a sound system as long as we didn’t upset the neighbours.
The Political banners came out in the end but in the end the most political act that one can do is to provide food for those with none.
Solidarity not Charity