The Cathedral Archer Project was set up in 1990 to support homeless and vulnerable adults living in Sheffield. Based at Sheffield Cathedral on Church Street, project workers at the centre support and assist more than 60 clients each day. The way the project serves the local community is hard to sum up in a media-friendly […]

The Cathedral Archer Project was set up in 1990 to support homeless and vulnerable adults living in Sheffield. Based at Sheffield Cathedral on Church Street, project workers at the centre support and assist more than 60 clients each day.

The way the project serves the local community is hard to sum up in a media-friendly sound bite, because its services and facilities are wide ranging. Although homeless adults can come to the Archer Project for a hot meal or a food package, this is by no means the beall and end-all. In fact, it is only the beginning of its efforts to help people escape destitution on the streets of Sheffield. At its core is the belief that everyone deserves a chance at a happy and fulfilling life. Numerous activities and opportunities are opened up to service users, offering a springboard to a new start. The project is of vital importance over the cold winter months, but it is there year-round for those who need it, offering support, encouragement and a warm, safe environment. A cursory visit to the centre soon changes people’s preconceptions about the homeless, not least because of the number of volunteers who help run the project who have themselves come from a background of homelessness.

The Archer Project places a strong emphasis on developing practical skills that are important in everyday life. Numeracy and literacy classes give service users a chance to improve their skill sets and training adds to their employability, while nurse clinics, dentistry, shower and laundry facilities, housing advice, free clothing and health groups for drug users all contribute towards this well-rounded charity venture. But more than this, the project is about putting its service users in positions of responsibility and trust in a safe environment. Two examples of this are Helen and Kevin.

Helen is difficult to work with due to poor concentration. She will often change the subject or raise a different issue, making it feel like she does not want to address her problems. Her parents were largely absent during her childhood and she would often have to search local pubs to find them. She has become skilful at avoiding meaningful relationships and finds it hard to trust others. In this instance, a new home is only part of the solution. What Helen needs is an accepting and welcoming community that builds her confidence and trust – only then will she overcome her past and move on to enjoy new positive experiences.

Kevin helps run the project. His appearance is smart and he relates easily to everyone in the centre. He is responsible and respected. Kevin was once one of Sheffield’s best known and most arrested homeless drug users. He has not used drugs for more than three years and has his own accommodation. His past life and record still stand in the way of further development, but these days people are surprised when they learn about Kevin because he is such a well presented and nice person to meet.

There are many people trying to overcome similar histories to Helen, but there are also a growing number of Kevins. To support outcomes like Kevin’s, the team must provide constant encouragement and opportunity, as well as working closely with many other agencies who contribute to the mix of treatment, healthcare, accommodation and development opportunities.

The Archer Project recently secured backing from Dr Chai Patel, former owner of the Priory Clinic in Surrey, as part of Channel 4’s Secret Millionaire programme. Dr Patel visited the centre undercover and was suitably impressed with its services. Dr Patel said: “A young lady, with an extremely difficult life and huge loss of self-esteem, taught me not only how to skate, but also to trust her not to let me fall – which she didn’t.”

Speaking about project worker Sam, Dr Patel added: “Sam has the most incredible rapport with the clients using the service and always finds ways of ensuring that they are able to seek help and find the support they need. No matter how difficult someone’s situation is, Sam is committed to helping people break away from their extremely complicated lives.”

But despite financial backing from Dr Patel and organisations like the Big Lottery Fund, the project is not swimming in money, especially not in these economically dire times. It costs a colossal £1,200 for every day that the Archer Project is open. I’ll do the maths for you – that’s well over £400,000 a year. Unsurprisingly, the team is always looking for new ways to raise funds. Every year fundraisers (including directors of the project) take part in a sponsored ‘sleep out’ on the Cathedral forecourt. Last year, 27 participants raised an impressive £7,000 for the Archer Project. It is also one of a number of homeless charities set to benefit from the Streetsmart initiative, which gives diners at selected restaurants the chance to add a £1 donation to their bill. In 2010, the scheme raised £460,000 for organisations across the UK. Participating restaurants include Nonna’s on Ecclesall Road, Silversmiths on Arundel Street and The Wig & Pen on Campo Lane. Visit streetsmart.org.uk/sheffield for more information.

At this point, there should be no doubt in your mind that the Cathedral Archer Project is a worthwhile and indeed vital organisation serving some of the most vulnerable people in the city. As Christmas is a time of giving, why not make a donation to the project (justgiving.com/archerproject) or bring them some food supplies. At the moment they are in particular need of noodles, biscuits, tinned meat, tinned spaghetti and soup. If you are interested in volunteering your time to serve food, support activity groups, keep the place clean or generally help out with administration, contact Sara Sherratt on 0114 2636975 or sara.sherratt@sheffield-cathedral.org.uk.

If you are homeless in Sheffield, here are some points of contact for advice and support.

CATHEDRAL ARCHER PROJECT
Helping the homeless and vulnerable
Church Street, S1 1HA
0114 2636970
cap.reception@sheffield-cathedral.org.uk
archerproject.org.uk
Opening Hours: 8.30am – 1.30pm, Monday to Friday.

ROUNDABOUT
Supporting and empowering homeless young people in Sheffield
33 Rockingham Lane, S1 4FW
0114 2536789
roundabouthomeless.org

TURNING POINT
Drug, alcohol and mental health services
44 Sidney Street, S1 4RH
0114 2755973
turning-point.co.uk

NOMAD
Homeless advice and support unit for Burngreave
12-14 Burngreave Road, S3 9DD
0114 2412080
director@nomadsheffield.co.uk
nomadsheffield.co.uk

SHELTER (SOUTH YORKSHIRE)
Housing and homelessness charity
Furnival House, Furnival Gate, S1 4QP
0344 515 1515

SHEFFIELD CITY COUNCIL
Housing Advice, Homeless and Housing Options
Howden House, S1 2SH
0114 2735142 or 0800 7311689 (out of hours)
HousingSolutionsGeneric@sheffield.gov.uk

ST WILFRED’S CENTRE
Supporting the homeless, vulnerable and socially excluded
524 Queens Road, S2 4DT
0114 2555 720
stwilfridscentre.org

Sam Walby.