A number of community organisations on the Sussex coastline have banded together to raise awareness of poverty issues in the town.
A poverty hearing was held at The Shoreham Centre in Pond Road, Shoreham, to create an ‘opportunity’ for those experiencing poverty to ‘showcase their personal experiences’.
Among the speakers was a 22-year-old woman who brought her baby and described her ‘fears’ when she was pregnant and homeless, before receiving support from the Worthing Churches Homeless Projects.
The hearing also heard from four young people from the Worthing Foyer who all experienced homelessness, one who talked about his fears on the streets as he was gay, and described how he had ‘eaten out of bins’.
Chairman of the meeting Wayne Green spoke on behalf of Simon Duffy, director of Welfare Reform, about statistical data provided.
He said: “The poor suffer a huge burden of unfair taxes and pay the highest taxes, equivalent to a super tax.
“For instance, the poorest 10 per cent of households pay 47 per cent of their income in tax, this from not just income tax but a range of other taxes such as VAT.
“The Who Really Benefits from Welfare Report suggests that the inequality gap has widened, and it further suggests that in many respects the current benefit system works by a sleight of hand as much of benefit paid is clawed back in tax.”
The hearing, which took place last month, was supported by Adur Churches Forum, Shoreham Community Trust, Adur Voluntary Action, Worthing Churches Homeless Projects and the YMCA, Worthing.
Later in the evening, another person called for a more ‘human-centered’ approach to mental health and poverty, saying they regularly live in the dark when they can’t afford money for electric.
Rachel Blair, a community fundraiser for Worthing Churches Homeless Projects, spoke about her work raising awareness of homelessness.
She said: “We have seen 1,100 people this year and the Local Assistance Network which we manage has helped over 400 people.
“I am pleased to have the opportunity to raise awareness of homelessness and the support offered by WCHP.”
Keynote speaker Niall Cooper, director of the national campaign organisation Church Action On Poverty from Manchester, commented on the negative perceptions and language used about poverty that some of the media pick up and promote negative images, demonising those in poverty, those unwaged and those socially excluded.
Worthing councillor James Doyle said, however, that he was concerned about ‘otherness’ and Public Safety Protection Orders which risk criminalising people on the street.
Councillor Dave Simmons said the council had to live within its budget, but added the council was planning to build more affordable housing in the future.
A report of Adur Poverty Hearing will be made available to interested stakeholders and the community.
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