Let’s Spread Some Hope in 2013


By - Thursday 3rd January, 2013

Andy Stranack explains why giving hope needn’t cost a thing


I have spent most of the last 14 years living and working on or below the poverty line in the UK. I have worked alongside some of the most inspiring people anyone could meet. However, I have seen, with my own eyes, that a lot of the problems in the UK at the moment are not due to material poverty. Rather, we are faced with a tidal wave of poverty in hope, ambition, and self-belief.

Owing to the fact that many people are lacking these three elements in their lives, they tend to spend their money on things that help them escape their current situation for a few brief moments: alcohol, drugs, a pet who can provide unconditional love, sex, or the latest material thing that advertising claims will bring you happiness.

My hope in 2013 is that instead of our politicians at a local and national level arguing over the financial levels of benefits and welfare, they will talk about how to restore hope, ambition, and self-belief to some of our most deprived communities in the UK.

I was shocked to discover that during the period 1994-2004 (a period of economic growth in the UK) the number of people living in severe poverty actually rose.[1] Seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? This was not due to cuts in the welfare system, but instead the fact that many people were finding it increasingly difficult to access a more and more complex and bureaucratic welfare system. A welfare system that requires you to have a bank account, passport, driving licence, and utility bills to prove your identity is inevitably going to exclude some of the most needy people in the UK.

Crisis at Christmas’ Christmas Day dinner

Giving someone a bit of hope does not have to cost loads of money – next time you see a homeless person on the street, why not buy them a coffee, or a sandwich, and spend a few minutes talking to them? I guarantee you will learn something and you might just be able to pass on a few words of hope, because after all, kind words cost nothing to give.

In the run up to Christmas I worked with someone who grew up in the care system. This person is in their early twenties and is homeless. They spent most of the first part of  December living in a car, and although I tried to get them into the Croydon Churches floating shelter[2] they did not want to be parted from their dog (probably the only animal that has shown them unconditional love in their lives). I am pleased to say that just before Christmas I was able to help them cut through some of the system’s red tape and find some temporary accommodation in a bed and breakfast to live in during the Christmas period.

Wishing all Croydon Citizen readers a happy 2013.

References and external links:

  1. Centre for Social Justice’s Economic Dependency Report, 2006, page 8.
  2. Croydon Churches Floating Shelter
  3. Croydon Nightwatch, a homeless care programme operating since 1976 in Croydon
  4. Croydon Council Rough Sleeper/homeless support and emergency shelter
  5. Crisis, a nationwide homelessness charity
Andy Stranack

Andy Stranack

Andy Stranack is a Croydon native, and community activist and frontline poverty fighter, working on engaging the local community to extend aid to the less fortunate. He is involved in a number of local initiatives that support the elderly, provide shelter to rough sleepers, and help young people who have become involved in crime to turn their lives around. He is passionate about Croydon, and is keen to see it become the very best place to live and work it can be. He is a member of the Conservative Party and ran for MP in the Croydon North by-election.

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