In most of the UK they are known as council estates, in the US they are regarded as the projects and in Scotland they are called schemes. Opinions on housing schemes differ depending on your life history and experience of them. Nowadays, they are still vestiges of working class people, sometimes holding down 2 or more jobs as they struggle to pay the bills.
Over the years changes have come to the schemes. Along with modern redevelopment there has been an influx of middle class social climbers bringing with them their worldview, often not understanding the nuances of entering a tight-knit scheme community where families have lived for generations. We have also seen immigrants being settled in the schemes, often being met with suspicion.
We also have the ‘benefits class’ who have been on social security handouts for generations. For them work is anathema.
All of this is being fed by a drug culture that is commonplace, coupled with a criminal underbelly that deals in street drugs, prescribed medication and stolen goods as a matter of course. Far too many people on the schemes are ruled by fear.
To some they are places of terror, to some places of hopelessness but to many millions more they are ‘home’.
We believe that the biggest need, most urgent crisis, and most crippling poverty in the schemes is spiritual. Most living in Scotland’s schemes are spiritually dead, trapped, lost, unreached and unengaged by the church. The gospel alone changes lives. The response of the church to the devastating reality of much of life in Scotland’s schemes has to be more than support groups and charity. Our response must be for the church to move into the schemes, to see new, healthy, vibrant, gospel preaching churches established in the schemes and for the schemes.