Category Archives: Opinion

Refugees Welcome Are Here!

The scenes in Hungary of a TV camera women kicking and tripping refugees are disgusting – and the rhetoric around their plight is making me so angry – some comments made on the article of the attack have left me really upset so here’s my rant!!

Refugees are very much welcome here as far as I am concerned!

I’m sick of hearing how terrible it is that “immigrants” – (actually they’re refugees please buy a dictionary and look up the difference) are coming into our country and eventually we’ll be the minority ….

….The minority of what? Because we are all HUMAN BEINGS and the UK is NOT unique, refugees are trying to find safety all across Europe – and we’ve taken less refugees than most other European countries – fact!

I would like all of you with children, with parents, with family to go look them in face and think what would you do?

What would you do if a small band of militants were torturing and raping your family and neighbours, beating and killing your friends and you, your child, your mom, your dad – any of you could be next – and your government stands by and does nothing – in fact they do worse than nothing – they treat you like animals too, the starve you and bomb you into submission when you protest! They support the military in attacking its own people and stand by while the atrocities happen.

Because I tell you what I would do. I would I would run!

I would run with my child in my arms and I would not look back. I would leave my job, and my home and everything I hold dear, and I would run into the unknown. and that’s exactly what these HUMAN BEINGS are doing. Running – for their lives!

And what do they face when they finally slow down running – when they have crossed deserts and oceans in the search of safety – Racism, bigoted small minded people who have NO idea what these people have been through and face scenes like this – Human beings physically attacking other human beings for wanting to get their children to safety!

It’s an absolute disgrace. Her side of the story in no way matches the scenes that were filmed – under attack? By a man with his child in his arms? By teenagers who have left  their homes, families and friends behind n the search of some peace? Really? Kicking out at children, tripping fleeing fathers is not self defense – it is single minded at best to get the shots for your job, a job you are secure in unlike the people you are attacking.

It is racist, bigoted, heartless and cruel at worse – which given the ownership of the channel she worked for is probably closer to to the truth

So now how do you feel now? What if that was you? Fleeing for your life,  with nothing but your child in your arms and the clothes on your back? With no idea where the rest of your family is – or even if they are alive. Moving from country to country because every where you turn, you’re not wanted and the people you are running from dead set on killing you in the name of religion, greed and selfishness and the people you are running towards dead set on sending you back because of the same?

Now are refugees welcome here?

One Night On The Streets…. my experience of the #P3BigSleepOut

This a cross post from my other blog but it’s an experience I though worth sharing here too…

As I was getting ready to go out Friday night, sitting on the edge of my bed pulling on a second pair of socks – it struck me how perverse the situation I was about to put myself in really was. Warm in my house, stocking up on snacks and drinks. James and I were about to spend the night sleeping rough on the streets of Wolverhampton to raise money and awareness for P3Charity.

P3 charity and social enterprise. It started in Wolverhampton and now works nationally with the homeless. They run hostels and help people from all walks of life promoting independent living and supporting some of the most vulnerable and at risk people in our towns and cities – And those homeless that we were supporting Friday night, and that they support daily don’t have a second pair of socks to pull on, they don’t have the advantage of wondering if they would be warm enough in the 2 t-shirts and hoodie I was already wearing – they have to just get on with it and so I know my night sleeping “rough” was in luxury compared to some.

 8pm – Getting going

Arriving at their hostel in Thornley Street at around 8pm we were greeting by an already amassed group of about 45 other charity workers volunteers, residents and ex residents of the hostel readying themselves for the night ahead. After a welcome from the Mayor, and a cup of tea, old duvets and cardboard were distributed and we headed towards the civic centre, and St Peters Square which was to be our base for the night. Everyone was in good spirits as we looked to prepare our beds. Those that had taken part the previous year staked their claim to their spots and we found a bit of floor just under the overhang of the civic centre…. shelter of sorts.

We're all set. #P3BigSleepOut #charity #homeless #BigSleepOut www.justgiving.com/jamesandsteph

A post shared by Steph Clarke (@therealessitam) on

A layer of cardboard (or camping mat for those that had them), a folded duvet and a sleeping bag made up the majority of the beds. Others opted to stay in camping chairs – or as one volunteer did – and air bed (cheat!!!). And we got down to the business of being homeless for the night. The first couple of hours were fun as we got to know the people around us random dancing broke out in the form of an Irish Jig and people dared not use the port-a-loo for fear of being of spun.

One way of keeping warm #dance. #P3BigSleepOut #charity #homeless #BigSleepOut www.justgiving.com/jamesandsteph

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 Time drags on

People were in good spirits but as it crept passed midnight and everyone started to settle down reality started to creep in… I was there safe in the knowledge that my car was only 5 minutes down the road, that a hot shower and a comfy bed was waiting for me once this was over… but for the estimated 231 people who look for shelter every night in Wolverhampton, they don’t have that security.

P3 have 21 beds in their local hostel, and 5 No Second Night Out supported “emergency” beds, but that still leaves over 200 people each night out in the cold with nothing but their own thoughts for company. It was midnight and I only had 6 more hours to pass but the reality for some is this is their daily routine, and when you’ve nothing but time stretched before you, time with nothing to look forward to and nothing to think about other than where your next meal will come from, will I be safe this evening where will I go in the morning it is little wonder that some turn to the oblivion of drink or drugs to get them through it….

 1am – and so the bell tolls

The noise from the pubs and clubs kept drifting over disturbing those trying to sleep. People walked through , talking to us- and admittedly they were probably more confused by finding nearly 50 people in a doorway in sleeping bags than they would have been by one so were more open to chat and as the night wore on I became more and more aware of the chiming of St Peters clock – every 15 minutes and somewhere in the distance there is an argument and sirens….

The local police popped by a few time throughout the night, they were aware we were there and they came by to check everything was alright. At one point two PCSO’s came over while a trio of lads leaving the city a little worse for wear wandered through – they were jovial and put some money in the collection bucket the officer was holding and one of the residents joked – “you stopped me from doing that the other day officer!” – and that joke highlighted another question for me- we were there as an organised group, would the police have come to check in if I were a solo – really homeless – sleeper and if not who would? And if they did stumble across me out alone would they check if I was ok or would they just have moved me on?

 3am – Get a fucking Job!

I was still at 3am awake when a pissed man wondered the opposite side of the square. He stopped as he notices us and starts screaming abuse. Apparently it was people like us that was everything that was wrong with society (…the irony) and that we should all “GET FUCKING JOBS”.

He shouted and argued at us but with himself for a few minutes – offering to fight us all if we wanted to go over to him – big brave man wasn’t brave enough to come over and find out what we were all actually doing there and unsurprisingly no one took him up on the offer and eventually he left.

We’d all ignored him, mumbling between ourselves what an idiot he was, safety in numbers had kept us secure but I felt genuinely aggrieved and I could tell others did too. I was scared for the people he may encounter who were alone. What would he do with his aggressiveness when stumbling across an individual alone, cold, hungry and tired? Where do they go to sleep safely when there are odious people like him walking the streets?

The bigotry this one person displayed was awful and it highlighted the stigma that follows homelessness everywhere – that somehow it is a lifestyle choice to be out on the streets. What people fail to realise is that there is cracks we could all fall down anywhere. Most of the population is only one pay packet away from financial hardship and it only takes one slip, one bad decision, one wrong turn and you too could find yourself in need of the support charities like P3 provide.

I was almost there once myself, through no fault of my own – 10+ years ago and only by the grace of god did I have the support of my family and a floor I could sleep on that kept a roof over my, and my sons head.

To contrast the shouty man though others who came across us stopped to find out what we were doing, some left donations and others insisted on shaking the hand of everyone involved restoring some of my faith in the good of the masses.

 4:30am – Here comes the rain

From 4pm I managed to start to doze, on and off, with my sleeping bag pulled up right over my head to keep the breeze off my face, waking every time the clock chimed.

Cold surprisingly wasn’t too much of an issue, I remember thinking how lucky we were with the weather – for an October night it was surprisingly mild just a bit of drizzle early on but around 4:30am a rain shower hit. It came down suddenly and there was mad scramble to get under the hang over from those in the open – the wind blew spray into where we were laying and I was again wide awake.

I spent the next hour lying, listening to the murmur of conversation of those around me, to the bars emptying their bottle bins with a clatter and an argument between a group of women somewhere in the city that by the time it reached me sounded like a gaggle of geese squabbling.

 5.30am Packing up

At 5:30am the last of our visitors appeared, an obviously drunk young lady with a story of a fight with her boyfriend who had walked miles into town and just wanted somewhere to sit for 5 minutes and promised not to call the police on us if we let her rest on the end of one of the sleeping bags.

It took us a minute to get her to understand that we weren’t really homeless and we were there for charity but we let her sit for a while, a broken night sleep further disturbed and the group started to stir and pack up for the short walk back to the hostel and breakfast…..

Nearly 6am and we're starting to pack up, and so ends our night sleeping rough. #P3BigSleepOut

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 Sleeping rough so others don’t have to

In 21st century Britain the fact that in a supposed first world country we still have so many people eking out an existence on the streets is heart breaking. There are many reasons as to why people end up homeless but it is charities like P3 that break the cycle that keeps them there. They work hard to ensure that the most social excluded are given the support they need, be it in their hostels or through their outreach workers, to live their lives to their full potential. One day you may find yourself in a position that you need the support and help of an organisation like P3 and this is why I chose to take part Friday night, raising just a little bit of money for and hopefully a bit of awareness of those people who need the support NOW.

I spent a night sleeping rough in the hope that now and in the future others wont have to and I would be grateful if you could do your bit by supporting P3 and other homeless charities in the work they do. Groups and organisations like these are always after volunteers who are able to give a bit of their time, or you can find other ways of helping through practical and financial donations (you can still sponsor James and me if you like).

 Streetlink

Finally if you spot someone sleeping rough, don’t be a dick screaming abuse like the idiot we encountered, call Streetlink on 0300 500 0914 and give as much information as you can – this support line will connect rough sleepers to local services hopefully getting them the advice and support that they need.

Playground Talk – Random Thoughts

Last week I was walking down the road with a friend of mine who’s daughter is at the same school as TBK  we were talking about how they were getting on with them both being  in year 7  when she announced and went into great details about her daughter starting her periods.

I’m not bothered that she told me, dammit I felt sorry for the girl by the sounds of it was hardly a gentle introduction into the monthly merry-go-round of PMS and stomach cramps but it did make me stop and think – I would have been mortified as an early teen if I’d have found out my Mom was walking down the street casually discussing what was going on in my pants with her friends – So what exactly compels us to share so much intimate information about our children with other parents?

As babies we’d discuss sleep patterns and the consistency and texture of poo, in mother and toddler classes it would be first words and and first steps. In nursery and then into school every milestone would be celebrated with clucking and cooing on the playground, the more competitive parents (mothers usually) exaggerating their children’s achievements, the quieter ones ducking the playground politics by discreetly bowing out of my child’s better than yours conversations and now here we are,me and my parent friends in the brink of those dreaded teenage years discussing puberty, periods and mood swings.

So why do we share so much? Are we telling each other all these things to gain reassurance from each other that were doing it right? To get an opinion on things we feel were doing wrong? Are we showing off? Living vicariously through out children, bragging about there progress and achievements, Or are we pre programmed as humans to share things and as parents our children are one of the biggest things in our lives so it’s only natural that these details get shared.

Or is it at as feel some of all of the above?

Dear Mr Sainsbury

Today when I sat down at my desk for lunch I was really looking forward to your King Prawn Tom Yum soup. I had purchased it on my way into work from your much advertised “400th” Sainsburys local store which has recently opening in Wolverhampton.

I hope you can understand that after carefully following all the procedures you’d printed on the label to warm the soup – piercing the lid, stirring halfway through the 3 minute cooking time and then letting stand for the customary 60 seconds –  how disappointed I was to transfer the soup to my bowl to discover that the soup did not live up to the other direction on the label –  that it actually contained prawns!

ONE King prawn was floating forlornly in my bowl and it was ever so lonely – I should know I looked! I scooped up every mouthful in an attempt to find him a friend, hoping that they were simply hiding further in the bowl but alas there were none!

Mr or Mrs Sainsbury (or whoever this email gets to) can you please rectify this in future tubs of soup as I’m sure your prawns would appreciate the company of other prawn friends in their travels from your warehouse to your shops – and I’m sure my stomach would too!

With regards

Steph Jennings

Move along please, nothing to see here.

Last night while the country seemingly went insane with looting and rioting in London, Nottingham, Liverpool, further afield and closer to home in Birmingham, the WV11 Facebook page and Twitter feed came alive with rumours that there was rioting and looting at Bentley Bridge, Wednesfield and further afield in Wolverhampton.

We were very pleased to report this was NOT true.

There was no trouble at Bentley Bridge and while there have been some reports of “minor damage” in the city centre this morning – there is nothing obvious that I could see on my way to work. I am shattered we spent a large part of last night relaying police updates to our Facebook and Twitter followers  and talking online to Wednesfield residents who could see that there was no trouble going on on their doorsteps.

At times it seemed like an uphill battle when twitter searches determined there were so many people convinced the main retail park in our area was burning to the ground – even though if they’d looked out of their windows a distinct lack of smoke in the sky could have waylaid that particular rumour, but we stuck at it and eventually we stemmed the tide and finally after much effort we got the point across. The people spreading misinformation started repeating our message that there was nothing going on, directing people to the official police streams – and in some cases saying they “Feel awful and a right scare monger” when they realised they were wrong. Some residents were also going out to prove all was well and posting photos to our wall.

So imagine my utter frustration when the “main stream media” of our area The Wolf radio station, who were distinctly absent last night when we trying to allay peoples fears, posted this on there facebook page this morning trying to make something out of nothing:

James and I tried our best to stem this too and then followed it up with this news piece – and it prompted  the subsequent response on facebook:

I feel they didn’t quite go as far as lying but most definitely reported in such a way that anyone who wasn’t aware of the truth of the situation would have probably questioned what was going on and then they chose to ignore our calls for openess and tried and get a resident to talk to them on the phone because they said they were scared!

Personally I think it was incredibly irresponsible of their radio station to report in this way.There were no problems of note in Wolverhampton last night and definitely NONE at Bentley, and I can testify to this having passed by the retail park and walked through the city this morning. Keeping people afraid and giving them a platform, inviting them to fuel the rumour mill will  create an atmosphere of fear that could become a breeding ground for a situation to arise  similar to those we saw in Birmingham last night –  The media should have a responsibility to report facts not conjecture and local media more so as they are much more accessible to the local people than the national news outlets .

Yes there were reports of looting and rioting in Wednesfield, particularly on Bentley Bridge last night BUT they were false and The Wolf should have taken responsibility in this instance and reported as such!

Talking to each other…

This Way

What is community engagement?

For me it’s about communication with the people who both live and work where I live. It’s about conversation, Saying hello asking questions and listening – and that comes from the community and any partners working in the community, local government, police, LNP’s etc.  But, how do you encourage engagement? The people that want to will find ways to become part of what is happening locally, they will attend the PACT (Police and Community Together) meetings, they will become members of the residents association – they will give themselves a voice. But what about the people who live in the community but quite often don’t have the confidence to communicate with each other – let alone people in so called positions of authority – How do you encourage them to engage?

You encourage them to talk to each other – that’s how!

We set up the WV11 website 2 years ago this week and we’ve watched it grow from a site that we stuck articles on in hope someone would read, to a community who actively seek information from each other.  If the lights go out in our area within a short while we receive a post on our facebook wall “Is anyone else’s power out?” – When one of the water mains burst it was quickly established through conversation how far spread the outage was and how long it was likely to last as individuals shared information with each other, no longer just looking to us for the answers.

But how do you move that conversation away from talking to each other – to talking to the partners that can make a difference in their area?

Recently there has been a spate of anti social activities taking place in the local park – from graffiti and vandalism to bullying and loutish behaviour.  One of the targets for the local vandals are a set of newly installed exercise equipment which had been there barely a month before it had been set on fire and destroyed and the locals are getting fed up! They came onto our facebook page to express their displeasure at the situation so we asked them straight out – Do you think patrols of the park to combat anti social behaviour should be made a PACT priority at the next meeting? – They answered a resounding YES! As  a result of us asking this simple question which basically amounted to “What do you want to happen in your area?” that is asked all the time by various bodies, but in a much more focussed way, many residents who have never before attended a PACT meeting have expressed an interest in attending the next scheduled meeting on 16th August to set this in motion, and one resident who is unable to attend herself has found her voice and penned a letter she forwarded to us at Wv11 to pass over on her behalf.

Some of these people are the same ones who 18 months ago when we first started listing the PACT meetings on our website were telling us “there is no point going as we never get listened to anyway” – maybe it’s because finally they’ve found a cause which they really want to see a fix for that has made them engage – maybe it’s after 24 months of  listening to each other online that they feel empowered to take action, or maybe it’s just because we asked a direct question and with over 60 responses they feel they have a united voice to get something done – who knows – all I know is I’m looking forward to the next PACT meeting and seeing what it brings.

Hopefully we can get the patrols a priority and prove that an engaged community does have a voice and that they can make things happen!

The remnants of a quake

Yesterday after I posted my #NZpicoftheday Dan Slee sent me a message:

Which actually should have been a challenge as New Zealand is land of beautiful scenery, but mainly comprising of the mountains and the sea, so not a lot of red…. until recently.

Post quake Christchurch is awash with red, but this is no good thing. If you’ve seen todays #NZpicoftheday you’ll know why but it meant my choice of image was already there for the taking.

I’ve been trying to avoid posting “the damage” pictures as much as possible, it felt really voyeuristic walking around the remains of people lives and snapping away. I was very aware that as a tourist I would escape the ruin but for the people who lived there, there can be no escape, this is now their new reality.  In fact taking pictures of the quake damage was one thing I didn’t do for the first 2 weeks we were there. It wasn’t until until I met “locals” with cameras, discussing where they were when the quake hit I felt confident enough to take my camera out it, seeing them made me feel less intrusive about walking around taking pictures but I still shyed away from shooting peoples homes.

Just like seeing those locals in Christchurch who changed my mind about taking the photos, Today’s picture and subsequent conversation with someone who still believed the earthquake damage was isolated to the city centre has made me rethink about posting images of the damage.

The CBD (city centre) is still cordoned off and inaccessible with buildings visibly leaning awaiting deconstruction, rubble is piled everywhere broken glass and detritus still littering every corner.

Every street in every suburb in the east of the city has damage, Houses, roads, businesses, felled trees, burst water mains munted sewerage pipes, collapsed river banks, subsidence and liquifaction is wide spread, and as you head further out into the port hills, to Sumner and Redcliffs, closer to Lyttleton and the epicentre you have to contend with all this and the added devastation rock falls and land slides.

As one New Zealander pointed out to me, this is history as it happens and someone has to record it before it all changes.

300km of sewerage pipes are in need of repairing or replacing, as a result waste is being pumped into the rivers and polluting the sea.

Sumner & Redcliffs RSA building, destroyed in a rock slide during the Feb quake, a boulder the size of my living room crashed through the rear of it.

This could be a photograph of any street corner in the city centre.

The CBD is still cordoned off, navigating the city centre is nightmare when every every second street is inaccessible and the cordons move based on risk analysis, work being undertaken and the constant threat of aftershocks.

Another street, another dead end.

3 months after the quake and glass still litters the streets, the human rescue and recovery tasks taking priority over clean up operations,

Every street is effected, this is Sumner, every household is in upheaval but from a distance it looks like nothing’s wrong, until you look closer and spot the remains of where a house once stood.

Even the footpaths in places are now impassable

When cracks appear in the road wider then your foot where do you start fixing them? – The answer – they didn’t they started with the ones big enough for someone to stand in

Whole sections of the road just shifted, this is right on the coast near Spencer Park easily and hour away from the CBD

The raw power of a quake, twisted and mangled foot bridge across the river Avon, thankfully this was damaged in the September quake which hit in the early hours of the morning so no one was on it.

Whole sections of ground have dropped by more than a metre – I wish I could say this was unique to the river banks but this subsidence is evident across the city and suburbs…

….Damage is everywhere,