More than a job! - 16/05/2019
Sheffield services and charities are staffed by motivated and compassionate people who are dedicated to helping vulnerable people move away from a life on the streets. Some of them have experienced similar issues to those being faced by their clients and this real-life experience means they completely understand the challenges that need to be overcome, because they may have been there themselves. The one thing that unites all staff in Sheffield services and charities is their total commitment to supporting people to make progress in their lives.
Help us Help spoke to some of the people working in Sheffield services and charities, and here are their experiences:
“I used to work at St Anne’s hostel as a casual worker, but I wasn’t very hands on in my role. I saw this job come up at the same time as I was noticing many more people on the streets. I have to admit I was curious why they were there, what was happening with support and in their lives. Now I work here, I’m getting to know the characters and their stories, and they are all different. It has really changed my perceptions of what’s behind us seeing people on the streets” – Hayriye
“I’ve been in a similar situation to lots of people who come here, but I got myself sorted, worked in other roles for like 15 years. Then I started to notice people begging in the streets in the city centre where I live, and I thought, ‘I’ve got a lot of knowledge about this. I could help’, so I started volunteering, then got a job working here. It’s my way of giving something back. If I can help one person by letting them see that you can come out the other side and live a different life, then it’s been worth it. It’s difficult, but it can be done. I’m proof of that.
We go on outreach every morning and then throughout the day, giving out hot drinks, sandwiches, clothes and signposting to support services, whether that’s us, Archer Project, addiction services, whatever. It’s about offering support in a subtle way, building up a rapport with someone so they understand they can trust you. This can go on for months and months until hopefully you get that day when the person says yes, they want support, they’ve had enough. You’ve got to be ready to jump when that happens, because all it takes is an old face to come around, or them to come into some money, and the moments gone, and you’ve lost them again. So, I go home some days completely frustrated that I’ve not been able to help, not been able to encourage people to access support. Other days I’m the opposite and feel like I’ve helped someone to make real progress, however small that may seem.
Lots of factors come into play when someone is begging, Their age, whether they’ve got a pet with them. I see people from all walks of life just giving money to people begging in the street – people who look like they’ve got lots of cash, and then others who scrabble around for loose change. There are so many generous people out there wanting to help. But we need to be encouraging people to start accessing services in the city and giving them cash on the street isn’t helping with that” – Danny
“I’ve always been interested in helping to support people who’ve been pushed to the side and forgotten about. Here at Addaction, there’s an ethos of offering the support and encouraging people back into society again. We are client focussed, and the client always comes first. We encourage them to drive our service forwards by making it adaptable to their needs.
There’s a real stigma in society about being a criminal and about drug use – we are actively trying to break that down. I want to change perceptions among the general public about our clients. They are all people at the end of the day. One of our clients needed a lot of support and encouragement to build up his self-esteem. We helped him to get his accommodation sorted, he got his CSCS and got a job, so everything was falling into place. He’s always loved music, and used to write his feelings as song lyrics, so when we started working with RiteTrax, he got involved and now helps other clients to process their feelings by writing song lyrics. He just needed support and encouragement to be able to make great progress with his life.” – Amy
“I started working here because I wanted to use my experience and what’s happened to me in the past in a positive way. I believed in recovery and still do. Looking back at my own experience of recovery, I know that if I can do it, then anyone can. I had a lot of gratitude for how I’d been helped and supported. I know how easy it is for people to make wrong decisions, and for some people those bad decisions have more of an impact than on other people. There’s a real stigma around being a criminal and a drug user, and people feel that stigma themselves which impacts on their self esteem and feelings of self worth. Here, we are all about helping people to overcome that and move past it.
Thinking about giving money to people begging on the street…I really want the public to understand the consequences of their actions. While ever people are giving money to people begging, all they are doing is keeping those people from accessing services in the city. People will not address and start to deal with their addictions if they don’t need to. I’d like people to think, ‘if I give £2 to this person, what difference is it going to make?’ They’ll still be sat there tomorrow begging for another £2. It’s not helping anyone, least of all the person begging on the street.
The public really do have a responsibility to help in positive ways. It’s no good trying to ease your conscience by giving cash to someone begging and thinking you’ve helped somebody. That’s not the reality of the situation – it’s making things worse”. – Richard
You can read more about the work of Archer Project, Ben's Centre, Addaction Sheffield and other services and charities on their websites - follow the links in the article above.
Alison Riggott, April 2019.