We look at the growing gap of understanding between Government and the needs of society, and ask; is it time we woke up and sorted out our social needs, ourselves? We suggest some alternative thinking and practical ways forward.
I drive carefully down the unmade road in the centre of town – they are renovating the offices adjacent. The JCB swings out into the carriageway and I continue, but this time driving on the pavement. It is wet and muddy. There is nowhere to park so I abandon my Volvo half on the pavement and next to the narrow entrance of a place where they fit car tyres. It reminds me of walking in the suburbs of Kiev, Ukraine. Larger cars are struggling to swing into the entrance”.
“You can’t park there mate!!”
We reach a deal. I’m going to the office next door, I say. I won’t be long. I hand the keys of my car to the young guy who I’m not sure I would ever want to go out with my daughter, and I ring the door of the Shekinah offices. So, this where it happens.
Kristy Winters, Shekinah Events and Community Assistant, opens the office door and smiles; “you made it then!?”
If there was any proof that our reliance on Government, is failing us, and that we need to take stock of society’s problems and find solutions ourselves – it is the existence of such charities and outreach that I am visiting now. “We served over 150 hot meals last week”. Kristy says. This is both a good day at the office, – and both an admission that there is an actual need, every week, for 150 hot meals. A perfect day, Kristy continues – would when they serve zero meals. It is an irony.
My initial prejudices were that such charities as Shekinah spring up in some sort of random way, and they continue in that format, because the public sector cannot cope and in some instances does not want to cope. We are becoming inured and totally used to reaching out to the smartie jar of big Government handouts, whenever anything in our personal life goes wrong, a bit like the classic Apple advert; “lost your job? – there’s a handout for that!
This is clearly incorrect. If we agree that society needs help from you and I, then the example here is that an integrated approach at a local level, which brings together local government (not national), along with all of the key private players – works best. In this case – Shekinah is one of an alliance of seven similar reach-out organisations, each specialising in one or two specific areas. Boosted by an ESF Grant (remember these?), which gave part of the necessary funding, that enabled Shekinah to build its own office, which in turn was a catalyst for a series of additional revenue earners, such as Training, Job Support.
It is also a recognition that the situations in which so many people seem to find themselves – are multi faceted. A customer (let’s use that term), may be homeless – but that situation may be caused by some additional factor, which needs to be sorted before the individual can start to contribute back to society.
It also recognises that future funding will come from frankly anywhere. There is as much need for the £100.00 cheque from a local company, as there is a larger public grant. And there is a direct appreciation of the value of each and every donation.
“£100 cheques mean we can make 100 more meals”. says Kristy.
This appreciation drives a continual outreach for food bank contributions, redundant clothing, innovative use of resources. The successful solving of life’s problems, means that everyone here is an entrepreneur. There may well be blue-sky thinking, but this is no marketing paradise. We are at the sharp end of delivering a lot, that makes a big difference, with very little.
I descend the stairs as Kristy shows me around the drop-in and residential walk-in areas of the building. And I am musing. It could well be that the local organisation of like-minded groups, the creation of social hubs, so to say – will increasingly be the answer to societies issues as a whole.
After all, we all know our own local area best. This optimistic thought process gives me hope. In the same way that small local “savings banks” can generate whole new economies – so the network of small but focused charity outreach, can put an end to societies problems in general.
There is an expectation of increased homelessness over the next six months due to COVID and lack of the bigger national schemes which finish any time now. There is some mud on the rims of my car as I collect my car keys from the depot next door. There was a time when that sort of thing meant a lot to me. I think I have other more valuable things to focus on, now.
Donations and offers of collaboration can be made direct to; Kristy.firstname.lastname@example.org