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A Magazine for Sheffield

Foodraising The agencies supporting homeless people in Sheffield

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We rightly clap for the NHS staff, key workers and volunteers who are putting their lives at risk to support us during this crisis. But this week I want to clap for those who are supporting people who are often at their lowest ebb: those who find themselves on the street with no money for food and nowhere to sleep, whose position was always hard but is now critical.

Normally, over 20 agencies in Sheffield work together to support and guide those on the street into a better way of life. At present it's an emergency situation; these agencies are only just able to feed the homeless and find them somewhere safe to stay.

The biggest challenge is being able to support this homeless and vulnerably-housed group whilst sticking to COVID-19 rules. I am a board member at the Cathedral Archer Project and it's fantastic how the staff and volunteers there and at all the other agencies have pulled together. Food donations from local shops and producers have also been invaluable.

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A number of frontline agencies meet regularly to look at how people can eat - including The Archer Project, Ben's Centre, St Wilfrid's, Sunday Centre and Homeless and Rootless at Christmas (HARC) - and, using Help Us Help's communication network, they have identified places where people need support. They have gathered a collective volunteer force, using The Archer Project as the main food production base and Ben's Centre to put together enrichment parcels.

Food wise, agencies in Sheffield are providing between 180 and 190 meals a day, including a cooked meal and a sandwich meal for each person. The food is then taken out to places where people live or is given out to people who remain without accommodation. Distributed by Ben's Centre every Friday, enrichment parcels contain fresh clothing, toiletries, books, DVDs, games and donations from Facebook.

The Archer Project is making food available directly from the project's base for those who have no money and remain on the street, ensuring that through working with Sheffield City Council and Framework, the commissioned Street Outreach Service, they are helping homeless or incomeless individuals. The Archer Project also provides showers, laundry facilities and access to a phone to process benefit claims, make appointments and talk to other agencies.

Kelvin, who has recently been supported by The Archer Project, said: "The only place I've found is the Archer Project. They've done quite a lot for us. We only got here Monday night. They let us get a shower, do some laundry, fed us. It's just a struggle - this is the only place we've found open in ten days, and it's places like this that are going to keep us alive."

The Archer Project has seen a rise in service users who have lost their jobs and accommodation as a result of business closures, especially in hospitality, Archer Project Chief Executive Tim Renshaw told me.

But to continue offering the current level of service, The Archer Project alone needs to raise its income target to £15,000 over the next few months.

"We couldn't provide this service without our amazing volunteers and food donations, however we also need to continually fundraise to keep going," Tim said.

"The public have been so generous to us during this crisis and we hope - amongst their many other concerns they will have at the moment - that they are able to consider our work and donate a few pounds."

During this crisis I have heard people talk about finding it hard but also acknowledging that they are lucky, because they recognise some are far worse off. The people who The Archer Project and others support are in that 'far worse off' group.

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