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Still going strong!

Still going strong! - 12/05/2022

“Well, we made it through. As a centre, I’d say we are recovering from Covid now, rather than suffering from it. Despite the twists and turns, the lockdowns, and the ever-changing guidance, we kept going. And we’re really proud of that!”


Help us Help caught up with Steve Clark and Mike Burston from The Sunday Centre to hear their reflections on the pandemic years, how their service adapted, and what’s next for them. 


The Sunday Centre is a not-for-profit organisation, based in the city centre, which serves Sheffield’s homeless and vulnerable. Their main aim is to provide hot food and drinks, yet they also offer guests a genuine welcome and the chance to socialise with others as they wish. 


During lockdown, The Sunday Centre were unable to provide guests with the chance to eat together in Victoria Hall, so switched to a takeaway offer, with meals distributed in the doorway. 


“One thing we were focused on was that our food quality didn’t diminish. While it was a takeaway service, we were providing Sunday Centre standard home-cooked meals, just in a takeaway bag. In fact, we probably upped the nutritional element as we were including extra fruit for guests, to make sure that we helped them stay healthy,” said Mike.


“Prior to Covid, many of our guests attended The Sunday Centre for social reasons, to meet friends and to get out of the house, and sadly those guests, in particular, found the lockdowns really difficult. Everyone understood why we had to change our service offering, and we had no hostility at all, but people missed the sociability that our centre offered them”, added Steve.


“Our volunteer needs’ changed when we switched to takeaway only, as we needed fewer volunteers, and had to be aware of social distancing. But now we’ve opened back up again, we need around 25 people each Sunday. It’s been great to welcome back many of our student volunteers, who have long been a source of support for The Sunday Centre. Without their support, and that of corporate volunteers, and other local people, we simply wouldn’t be able to open each Sunday”, commented Mike.


“And we’re looking forward to restarting our ‘Give it a Go’ sessions with students from the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University, to give students a taste of what's involved with supporting this client group. The ‘Give it a Go’ sessions are also suitable for corporate groups, and we have a couple booked in the next few weeks, which is great for raising awareness more widely.”


“Looking to the future, a major concern for us is the cost of living crisis, and how that will affect both our guests, and us as a centre. We’ve seen a marked increase in need from our guests for clothing and hygiene products, as their threadbare budgets are squeezed further by rising costs and benefits remaining stagnant. We’re thinking through how we might tackle this with partners in the city at present”


“Operationally speaking, price increases at supermarkets are affecting us. Our weekly meat bill, for example, has risen by 20%, and while our local butchers have always been exceptionally generous with us, there comes a point when they have to raise their prices, in response to rising wholesale costs. Even down to our popular tea and coffee bar, we are spending a significant amount more each week to keep our stocks of drinks and biscuits where they need to be. And this is happening to services and charities across the whole city, and around the country. It’s a real worry”, said Steve.


“All that being said, we’re happy to be back seeing our guests face-to-face, hearing their stories, and being an important part of their week. When we reopened in April this year, we moved to the downstairs floor in Victoria Hall, which is where we were based 20 years ago. It’s been like coming home!” commented Mike.

 

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You can support the work of The Sunday Centre in several ways:


* Donating goods: The team welcomes donations of goods that may help their guests whether they are from individuals, community organisations, local businesses or national companies.
* Raising awareness: Follow them on social media on Facebook and on Twitter and share their messages
* Fundraising: The project relies on donations and does not receive any Government support. Besides the ongoing costs to run the sessions, funds are also required for administration, printing and insurance.
* Sponsor a Sunday: Consider sponsoring A Sunday session! It costs approximately £300 to run a session in Victoria Hall, including the costs of rent for the hall, the hot 2-course meal, takeaway items (two pieces of fruit, bread and butter, a chocolate treat, a boxed drink, biscuits and cake), cleaning products, insurance as well as the provision of basic items of clothing and toiletries.

Find out more on their website: https://thesundaycentre.org/ 

 

Alison Wise for Help us Help, May 2022