Dec 112014

At this time of year homelessness and hunger hit the vulnerable particularly hard; even in our prosperous city there are rough sleepers and people with issues who need help. The generosity shown by those who donated and volunteered at this year’s Rucksack Project will go a fair way to help. Suzanne Kelly dropped off her goods, and spoke to the volunteers.

rucksacks-3On Saturday 6 December people converged on the Cyreneans’ facilities at 62 Summer Street to donate rucksacks filled with essentials – warm clothing, food, hand warmers, toiletries and more.

Over one hundred rucksacks were collected; these will be handed out to the homeless. Excess packs will be handed out later in the year- and it is not too late to donate.

People currently living rough in Aberdeen are people who have fallen on hard times for numerous reasons – loss of job and home, substance abuse issues, mental health problems, marital break-ups and ex-servicemen.

Depute Chief Executive, Scott Baxter spoke to Aberdeen Voice; he and his team are greatly appreciative of the generosity shown.

He explained that each day on average 35 people come to 62 Summer street for food, to wash, to do their laundry, and crucially for help in getting back on their feet. He led a tour of the facilities. It is clear the Cyreneans are doing a great deal of good work – but they can always use more help, more goods, more volunteers and more resources.

Anyone who finds themselves homeless should report in the first instance to Aberdeen City Council by visiting Marischal College, stating they are homeless and need shelter.

The Rucksack project is a worldwide movement born out of the simple idea to help those sleeping rough during the freezing winter months. The idea behind the rucksack project is simple, participants are asked to provide a rucksack and fill it with items which rough sleepers can use.

Ideal items include a sleeping bag, roll mat, waterproofs, warm clothes, thermals, hat, gloves, scarf, hand warmers, flask, underwear, mini first aid kit, toiletries tissues, lip balm and instant food – i.e. soup and noodle packets. There is no expectation to fill a rucksack with all these items, this is merely a guide as to what would be helpful.

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Dec 052014

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionarySeason’s Greetings! Tally Ho! Sale now on! 25% off! I’m sure we all love this time of year – a time to reflect… on how that new lowcost dress looks on us in the changing room mirror. It’s a time to take stock – and have a sale to make room for seasonal merchandise. A time for sharing – if you have a 2 for 1 coupon that is.

All this fuss and greeting about what’s going wrong in the Third World is unseemly at this time of year. I’m sure we’d all like to help the less fortunate around the globe. They want the same as absolutely everyone wants in Aberdeen: jobs creations.

Remember, no patch of ground, seashore or Site of Specific Scientific Interest is so important it shouldn’t be swept aside for jobs creation.

We can help create jobs abroad too. This might help keep those pesky foreigners out of the UK as well – bonus!

All we have to do is keep buying cheap goods from multinational stores that are sewn by people working in foreign sweatshops – sorry – meant to say foreign factories, and they’ll happily work day and night (literally) to meet our demands (unless the factory falls to bits, as happens). Such places are equal opportunity employers – no one is too old, too young or too weak to work.

From our mobile phones (no doubt bought on cyber Monday) to our our new Primark outfit, to the cheap designer knock-off we buy on the street corner – we are engaging in jobs creation. Well done us!

Then again, you could consider buying handmade goods from craftsmen in the UK, but these guys are always expensive, and more often than not are layabout subversive types. Even worse, if you get something from a craftsperson, it will be unique. How will you fit in then? No, it’s best to make sure you find out what the right colours are to be seen in this week, and make sure you have the right words sewn on your shirt. Check with your friends; no sense in standing out from the herd.

And with that it’s time for some December definitions.

Acts of Charity: (Compound English noun) to actively perform work to help others.

But this is a time for giving as well. Some people take it just that bit too far, and dabble with charitable acts, a rather unseemly kind of exhibitionist practice. Take for instance a man in Florida, who at the age of 90 should know better. Arnold Abbot has been feeding Ft Lauderdale’s homeless and poor for ten years – and he knows about this new law that says he can’t. He was already told by the police not to do it – but he’s not respecting their authority.

Jail’s the best place for people like him.

Two pastors were with him as well – what’s the world coming two when two churchmen are using funds to feed the poor? Who did they even get such a zany idea from? Church money is best tied up in real estate, paintings and gold.

So here’s to Florida’s new law against feeding the poor. Perhaps they’ll get round to prohibiting helping the sick as well. By the way, in the land of the free, it’s also now illegal to feed the hungry in a few other places too, which is fine, as there can’t be many hungry people in Seattle, LA, Dallas and Philadelphia (Philadelphia’s the place with the ‘Liberty Bell’ – ‘let freedom ring’ is the American cry. I’m sure there’s no symbolic value to be found in the fact the bell is cracked).

The bravery of the American policeman is often overlooked. Often faced with unarmed men, or 12 year olds with guns, they selflessly put their lives on the line to make the world a safe place. Of course this often means the kind of safety where you’re liable to be shot dead for no just cause at the hand of an untouchable force, but I guess you can’t have everything.

Well done Ft Lauderdale police – good to know that of all the laws you could be enforcing, you’ve gone for the rogue 90 year old. The Independent’s article has a fetching photo featuring three police officers sent to get this guy. One gendarme is a woman, you might wonder if she is perhaps there to show the sharing caring side of stopping people feeding the poor in public, but surely the police aren’t into patronising, sexism, or attempts at PR coups.

Not one of these three officers questioned the importance of this law, and happily went about the business of upholding the law. The future will need more such brave police I’ve no doubt.

The Independent article advises:

“Mr Abbott set up Love Thy Neighbour in memory of his late wife Maureen in order to continue the humanitarian work they both did by regularly making and sharing food at Holiday Park and Fort Lauderdale Beach.

To comply with the law, all they’d need to do is to rent premises (no more than one per city block, mind) and spend their overheads on rent, insurance, etc. instead of food. It’s all a bit unseemly, seeing poor people eating; this sort of thing is best done behind closed doors (if done at all). Or so it goes in Ft Lauderdale. Let’s hope no irreverent types access this Love Thy Neighbour charity’s site and donate funds.

On this side of the pond Sir Bob Geldof is resurrecting his Feed the World / Do they know it’s Christmas thing, this time Ebola is the cause celebre.

Love or loathe the man, he’s doing something. Cynical marketing and PR exercise? Saintly means for feeding/saving/vaccinating the world? I leave that with you.

However, since the original Live Aid single raised £8 million, and the Live Aid concerts raised some £65 million, I do have a suggestion that should save time, money and effort. Let’s get Sir Bob to do a concert for Sir Ian. If Wood stumps up some of the £53.9 million languishing in the Wood Family Foundation’s vaults, then that would nearly cover it. Result!

That’s food for thought – which is more nourishment that the people who could use this money are getting. I’m afraid the Boomtown Rats don’t do much for me, but I do prefer them to other kinds of rats.

Season’s Greetings: (English compound noun) A warm form of address usually associated with the Christmas period.

Since you’ve taken time out from your important shopping activities, here’s a heartwarming image to remind you about the people who have suffered, worked and fought so hard to get things right in the world.

Yes, I mean Tony and Cheree Blair. Tony’s very proud of his faith and the work he’s doing to bring peace to the Middle East (let’s overlook pride being a sin for the moment and all that nonsense). This photo brought a tear to my eye. ‘Season’s Greetings’ it proclaims – and greeting is just what you’ll be doing when you look back on the ways in which Tone has helped to make the world what it is today.

Old Susannah quite likes this photo; it does seem to capture the essence of the couple. However some unkind people have made comments on it which include

“Why is this year’s card so secular? For a man who decided to go to war inspired by his faith, this card is particularly non-descript. It doesn’t even say Christmas.”

“Why is Tony looking at us like we’ve just spilled his pint?

“Is this is all part of an evil plan to make us unable to sleep forever?

“Of course, it is possible that this is just the card he’s sending to all of his enemies.”

But do have a look at the lovely card and see what you make of it yourself.

Recycle: (English verb) to re-use or reclaim something which would otherwise be discarded.

Christmas is coming earlier and earlier these days; we’ve had Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and sales since Halloween. I thought I’d get in on this trend, and if you don’t mind, here’s something I wrote once before. Have yourself a merry little Christmas, or whatever you choose to celebrate.

Right, well it’s Christmas again.

I think by now we’ve established that not everyone looks like a supermodel, can afford hundreds of pounds of food and presents, and not everyone will be having dozens of close, equally-beautiful friends dashing to their homes in open sleighs to sing around 12’ tall, perfectly decked trees.

Don’t buy into a picture that doesn’t exist. But do, if you’re feeling stressed or unhappy about anything at all at this time of year, talk to a friend.

If you can’t talk to a friend or a family member, talk to one of the many services out there that will listen to you without judging you. Stress is particularly bad for people at this time of year, and it’s important to remember that worrying about things outside of your control will never solve anything, but will make you anxious or ill.

If there are things you can change and want to change about your work, life, home, then stop, figure out what you need to do, and start to make a plan for change. Don’t let your problems grow out of all proportion.

If you need a little bit of perspective, do some volunteering, fund-raising, join a group – do something new. You’ll be glad you did. There are people out there far worse off than you or I; be glad for what you’ve got, and don’t be tricked into thinking you need more material things to keep up with some imaginary Jones.

Sorry if this all sounds a bit obvious/preachy/oversimplified – but at the end of the day, it is definitely within your power to take stock, realise what you do have to be thankful for, and to fix what needs fixing. Please be happy, be safe, and have a Happy Christmas or whatever you might be celebrating. – OS

Stop press: on Saturday 6th December the Rucksack Project will be meeting at 2pm at 62 Summer Street in Aberdeen to give rucksacks of essential goods to our city’s rough sleepers. Please see – hope to see you there.

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Aug 122013

By Renee Margaret Slater.

The ‘In-Tent On Action Against the Bedroom Tax in Aberdeen’ at Union Terrace Gardens event is to highlight the plight of those faced with paying the Bedroom Tax in our city. We want the event to emphasize what may happen to public parks when tenants are faced with eviction due to housing debts.

The Bedroom Tax has been brought in by statute to charge people who have spare bedrooms, who are on Housing Benefit and reside in social housing.

Those people in such properties will have money deducted from their benefits – 14% for one bedroom and 25% for more than one.

This legislation discriminates against those disadvantaged through low wage and those who are unemployed. ‘In-Tent on Action Against the Bedroom Tax in Aberdeen’ will highlight what could happen when those who cannot afford to pay the Bedroom Tax are evicted from their homes.

This government wants tenants in Housing Associations & Council Housing (i.e. not private) who are on Housing Benefit to downsize to smaller properties. There aren’t the smaller properties for families to move into. This situation is common throughout the UK. One of our members in Aberdeen Against The Bedroom Tax has acquired information from ACC on the actual waiting figures regarding one bedroom properties in the city.

The number of people on the waiting list for one bedroom properties is 3,855. The number of one bedroom properties available to rent is 89.

Something is definitely not adding up here. This situation is repeated throughout the UK.

In-Tent on Action Against the Bedroom Tax in Aberdeen is supported by a large group of people directly affected by the consequences of the legislation, plus Aberdonians not affected but disgusted by the effects of a government that has no concern about the outcome of its benefit cuts on the poorest sections of our community.

Unlike the poll tax that affected everyone – this Bedroom Tax legislation only affects those on housing benefit residing in Social Housing.

Moving To Other Premises:  One of our members who has an autistic son – has been told by Aberdeen City Council that she must leave her 3 bedroom house in Torry to move into 3 bedroom premises in Manor Avenue. There is no logic here. Apart from the massive upheaval it will bring for her and her child, she still has to pay the bedroom tax, only it will be without family and friends’ support.

We have one major obstacle to overcome. We are faced with government propaganda machine that brands ordinary people on benefits as scroungers. They have a ‘Jeremy Kyle’ attitude to claimants that assumes that ‘everyone is on the take’.

Discretionary Housing Payment is to help those who have paid for the Bedroom Tax from their general benefits – money that is used for food, clothing, travel etc. Discretionary housing payments are worth only a small fraction of the total cut in housing benefit and are often only temporary, meaning problems can go unresolved. In Aberdeen, the City Council has decided not to repay the money to people affected but to add the cash to their Council Tax.

Many people who have to pay the Bedroom Tax are now in arrears with their rent. Once tenants are in arrears they are excluded from the exchange list and therefore cannot move to smaller properties. A vicious cycle ensues, forcing tenants into making painful choices.

This legislation has forced people to juggle paying rent and buying food for their children. Many have resorted to food banks.

We wish to ensure that ordinary citizens in Aberdeen are not fooled by a Coalition Government which accuses friends and families of ‘ripping off the taxpayer’. For every so-called scrounger there are 9 others suffering from this insidious Bedroom Tax. The In-Tent on ‘Action Against the Bedroom Tax in Aberdeen’ – in UTG’ is an opportunity for Aberdonians to see for themselves what may happen when we begin to see our parks occupied by ordinary people who have been evicted due to arrears.

Our protest is a message to both Aberdeen City Council and the UK Torry LibDem Coalition – Do not be complacent – your legislation WILL force families onto the streets!

Those expected to turn up on Saturday 24th August are people already paying Bedroom Tax, Those In arrears due to Bedroom Tax and supporters who see their friends and neighbours suffering from this insidious legislation.

This will be a peaceful and symbolic gesture from the people of Aberdeen in support of those affected by the Bedroom Tax. Similar actions are happening in over 30 cities throughout the UK.

We request that people be peaceful & to keep the park clean. We expect tents, gazebos, food parcels soup kitchen & some musicians. There should be speakers explaining the effects of the Bedroom Tax on the population. There will also be stalls with information..

 ‘In-Tent on Action Against the Bedroom Tax in Aberdeen’

 Union Terrace Gardens, Aberdeen

 24th August 2013

 12 noon – 8.00pm

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