Sunday, July 1, 2012

Help a blogger in need: Appeal re-plug

Towards the middle of last month, I had issued an appeal to all sane and rational folks in and around London, UK; the goal was to help a fellow skeptic and blogger in dire straits. I had said (among other things) in that post:
Seriously, why do bad things happen to good people? Late last night I got to know about the impending misfortune of someone I've known for quite some time. Well, not 'known' known, but this is a much-respected Skeptic blogger based in the UK, whose excellent posts, reasoned, analytical and well-researched essays - on various pseudoscientific modalities (Steelclaws on Snake Oil) as well as on Biblical errancy (A Plague of Mice) - have given me countless hours of thoughtful pleasure.

And now, for reasons fathoming which is beyond my human capabilities, this person is in danger of being rendered homeless.
At that time, the eviction notice was due to take effect on the 16th ultimo. The situation has since slightly changed; it turns out that the landlord was intent more on posturing aggressively than on actually taking steps to evict Steelclaws. Therefore, while there's still a roof over Steelclaws' head, there has been no mitigation, and this person is having to live every day under the Damocles' Sword of a possible Court order for eviction.

Nothing much has changed. Still suffering from the severe disability with worsening scoliosis which had originally forced an early retirement, Steelclaws had the misfortune of encountering one of UK's execrable Atos system [See Post Script] doctors, who inexplicably judged the blogger "fit to work" - resulting in a loss of housing benefits as well as savings.

Citizens Advice Bureau, a UK charity which helps people in dire needs with advice on legal, consumer or monetary matters, has offered the pro bono services of a lawyer to represent Steelclaws in the legal wrangle with the landlord, as well as for appealing the wrongful termination of benefits, et cetera.

But money is still falling short. Steelclaws has to live in London, because that reduces the painful commute to the courts (and to other offices for straightening out the disability issues). A rough estimate of Steelclaws' current monthly expenditure shows:
  • Rent £828.23 = 1299 USD (The Rent is Too Damn High!! - Those who don't get the US-centric allusion, it's okay. Steelclaws assures me that this is moderate in London, and rents can easily go up to £1200 per month)
  • Electricity £50 = 79 USD (A lot pricier than what I pay in the US)
  • Food £40/week = 63 x 4, i.e. 252 USD (Unable to walk for long stretches, Steelclaws is forced to order from food stores that deliver, which is a bit pricey)
  • Phone £20 = 32 USD (An essential service; this has been Steelclaws' only means of communication in the recent times when the Internet services were discontinued)
  • Internet connectivity £29.20 = 46 USD (Another essential service, a lifeline; important for retaining Steelclaws' contact with the blogosphere, as well as the voice)
  • Commute for various purposes, approximately £50 = 79 USD, fares and all.
Steelclaws also needs to renew the passport, since that is also used as a primary ID (which is why I consider this a priority). It costs about 130 Euros = 165 USD, seems like an unusually high amount to reconfirm a person's citizenship - but then most government policies hardly ever care for the poverty-stricken.

As I mentioned last time, too, a fellow Skeptic and blogger, Anarchic Teapot, has already put out a call to action; that appeal also contains a link to PayPal in case someone wants to donate to help Steelclaws tide over the current crisis.

I continue to lament that there isn't much I can physically do from across the Big Pond except express solidarity and try to help a bit with the expenses. My friends, readers, well-wishers, please share this with people in UK, US and elsewhere, and please help if you can. Let the people power rise up yet again, to help someone in real need, someone who has been treated unjustly by the system, someone who has always spoken out in favor of reason and sanity. Incidents like this are a blotch of humanity in general; let us try to prevent at least one, if we can.

PostScript: I wrote last time: In an illuminating feature written for the British Medical Journal, Margaret McCartney, a general practitioner, detailed her experience at an Atos recruitment seminar [McCartney M. (2011) Well enough to work? BMJ, 342:d599]. The system is in shambles. More evidence, you say? How about, "man in coma being declared fit to work and having his benefits cut"? Or, "52-year blind man with rheumatoid arthritis certified by atos as fit to work"? This foul system needs to go, but will the UK government, in the throes of their 'austerity' preoccupation (which always seems to be targeted towards the poor and the marginalized), take this brave but long-overdue, and damned necessary, step?

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