The power of kindness! - 14/09/2021
Nobody likes to see people living on the streets. Many of us feel powerless about what we should do, or how to help for the best. Sometimes it’s easier to ignore the issue, and pretend it’s not happening in our town, near our workplace, or outside the local supermarket.
Help us Help is a collaboration of local charities and other services who share information about the support available to people rough sleeping and begging in Sheffield. We provide advice and guidance for businesses and the general public about how to best support people on the streets.
The work we do with partners and businesses in the city centre, and at other hotspots for anti-social behaviour in the city, is vital. Business owners and employees can feel more unsure than most about what to do to support people. They have obligations to their customers, but may have persistent problems in the vicinity affecting how customers feel accessing the business. Being aware of the latest advice, and confident to call on services when needed is what our work with businesses aims to instill.
Recently, we were made aware of how the manager of a local business, McDonald’s on Archer Road, had intervened to support someone begging outside the restaurant. Armed with information from Help us Help about how best to support people, restaurant manager, Craig Buck, spoke to the person to find out what was going on in their life, and contacted services who stepped in to offer relevant support.
Craig takes up the story:
“I have worked for McDonald’s for over 25 years, in many restaurants. 4 years ago I met a lady called Tracey Ford who left a mark on me and changed the way I looked at homelessness and vulnerability in general.
I was moved to the Sheffield city centre restaurant and as a “Sheffield lad” had mixed opinions about the restaurant I was taking on. The restaurant had an ASB background and begging was rife, but with a great restaurant team who worked there. I started to branch out and attend various meetings and events to speak with other local businesses and stakeholders and it was there that I stumbled upon the Help Us Help campaign.
They were great from day one with various initiatives, and in turn our staff quickly started to take an interest in what Tracey was doing with Help us Help. We volunteered on many occasions and we built a really good rapport over time.
Most recently I had a young lady who was sitting outside my new restaurant at Archer Road in the road begging and asking customers on foot and passing cars for cash and food. I was extremely concerned to see this, as the young lady could have been run over by a car. As I approached her she started to get defensive and angry. I firstly asked her to come away from the road and actually started to converse with her as a human being rather than somebody who was causing an issue. I was placed in an uncomfortable position as a customer was parked up and was listening to what the young lady was saying about how she had been treated by myself, but I now know this was just her being defensive because she had been abused while she had been sleeping rough.
I was more than confident in dealing with this situation after being armed with help, support and advice from Help us Help and with all the knowledge in the world we managed to help the young lady out with support. I spoke with Tracey and advised where she could get support and help in many ways. The young lady went on her way and “pinky promised” me she would follow my advice and take up the offer of help.
I came into work the next day and she was again sitting outside on the curbside asking customers for food and money so I went over and had another chat and then she told me about her background. I listened and reminded her of the promise she had made. This was my last day before a week off from work, and upon my return I was greeted by a letter explaining what had happened in the 7 days I was away and I can hand on heart say I am so proud of her!
If I was to offer any advice to anybody who has taken time out to read this is to…
Find out what support services are out there
Be confident in conversation about the services
Don't be afraid to speak with people
Treat everybody with the respect they deserve
Never judge a book by its cover”
Craig Buck, McDonalds, Archer Road
In just a few days the person has: been allocated a worker; been granted priority to bid on properties; registered with drug and alcohol services; started the process to make contact with their child; and is feeling hugely positive about their future.
With the right information and kind words, businesses and members of the public CAN make a difference to someone’s life. The power of kindness!
Alison Wise for Help us Help, September 2021