Six of our WI members attended the event in Wolverton which had been called “Haven’t you got homes to go to?” This was a mini-conference arranged by the BFWI Education&Current Affairs sub-committee to increase awareness of the problem of homelessness and the contributing factors to men and women finding themselves in this situation. The first speaker was Dr. Vickie Cooper who traced the history from the 1970s to the present day of cases where families have found themselves, often through no fault of their own, out on the street. The statistics which she gave us were shocking and she laid the blame for the acceleration at the door of the Governmental austerity cuts. The figures for domestic violence were up and drug addiction was rife and on top of this there were the illegal immigrants. Unfortunately, the speaker’s films made uneasy viewing not just for the content but also for the standard of the sound.
We then listened to 4 little presentations by local charitable organisations actively working to address the problems faced by the homeless. The Salvation Army Housing Association is doing wonderful work and the speaker was accompanied by a young mother who spoke of her progress from the depths of despair to holding down a responsible job in a hostel helping others because of SAHA’s timely help. Jo Vegho works for the MK Sanctuary Housing which is primarily concerned with refugees, women who have been trafficked and victims of FGM. She explained the procedures necessary to find a safe place for these people while they awaited official clearance of their papers. She quoted examples of trained nurses and doctors who had been able to find work with the NHS once they had benefitted from language classes and a proper home address.
Domestic violence intervention services are the responsibility of MK Act: Isabel Binns described the rise in refugees from violence in our locality, where in less than a year there had been 587 new clients. Paul Griffiths for the YMCA covered the housing needs of single young men who have no recognised way of fullfilling their housing needs. He gave us an update on the Bus which is being used in this area for overnight accommodation.
After a useful session of talking round tables where we asked to identify key messages and to list what WIs could do and what the individual can achieve, we listened to Judge Francis Sheridan list cases that had been brought before him and his, often unorthodox, solutions. He is a strong supporter of WI mandates to keep the mentally ill out of prison, to toughen treatment for domestic violence and to abolish slavery in this country: these poor souls are the victims of crime.
So where does the WI go from here? The most precious thing we can give is time, then money and if possible a temporary roof over these people’s heads and keep on backing up the WI mandates passed nationally. Together we can make a difference. Write letters, use social media and talk about the problem wherever and whenever possible.
The WI Discussion Group tackled changes in society tonight. We started with the impact of social media on day to day life. Then it was about the expectations which we all have: in education, travel, longevity and medicine. What about the gadgetry which we all take for granted in our homes? We may not have robots yet but they are knocking at the door. In the future, will we be fitted with implants with our necessary details included? After all, dairy cows can be recognised from their implants and given the right medication and food after passing the scanner. Different people had different views on whether some changes were for the good or not. It was a fascinating topic and we could have gone on for much longer.
Mary Hunt came to the monthly meeting to talk about the Winslow Oral History project. She showed us shots from the website and we listened to several of the interviews which had been recorded. Some of the history was a bit close to members’ own recollections but those of us who were fairly new to the town found it very interesting and everyone learned a lot. A report was given of the recent visit to the Greatmoor Recycling Plant. One of the members has been awarded a national certificate for services to the sport of croquet. Spaces were booked for the Christmas dinner and people collected the bulbs and seeds which they had ordered through the WI bulb scheme. The President asked members to be sure to attend the Annual Meeting in November.