A collection of stories and quotes from our staff and volunteers to mark the 30th Anniversary of The Cathedral Archer Project
I joined CAP as a volunteer in the summer of 2016 following redundancy from a global software engineering business as a result of the oil price crash. I had always had an affinity for people who were homelessness, and supported CAP as much as I could while working full time, and now I had a great opportunity to be more directly involved. I started working on reception, which can be quite a challenge and demanding however I absolutely loved it. I loved getting to know people by name, greeting each and every person with a welcoming smile and being able to serve them good food and hot drinks.
Very quickly I realised that I didn’t know anything about homelessness really. I very naively thought that all the people I saw on the streets were people who had lost their homes due to economic factors and sort of believed this could happen to any of us, we often heard the slogan ‘we are all only three pay slips away from being homeless’. I was so wrong. The people we support at CAP are victims of childhood neglect and trauma and have never experienced a home or the meaning of a home in the same way the majority of us do in this wealthy country. They aren’t making conscious, informed choices, they are surviving in the best way they know how.
The people we support have helped me more than they will ever know. They have helped me throughout my grieving process, to appreciate the little things in life and most importantly to find my vocation. I have a very deep empathy to support social justice and homelessness is not social justice. It is an unnatural disaster.
There are a couple of moments which I would like to share with you that I will always treasure. On my first day as a volunteer, a man asked me to check if he had any post, his name was “Justin Case”, obviously. I was busy hunting for his post as I heard people laughing from reception. A woman called Tim “Father Ted” which if you know Tim you’ll know how funny this was. When we are having a challenging day, I encourage my team to share funny quotes or moments that we have experienced along the way.
There are so many stories I could share however somehow I have chosen this one.
Nadia is a woman in her late twenties who one day will hopefully tell her own story but for now I can share mine. I can imagine the public perception of her isn’t a good one, especially if they believe everything they read in the papers. I, on the other hand, am privileged to know the true person. It has taken three years of daily contact for our relationship to develop and for her to trust me. Nadia is a beautiful, selfless, loyal, loving mother who loves children, animals and reading. Cathy Glass is her favourite author at the moment and it’s so wonderful to be able to see and get to know the inner person. I can’t imagine what the future holds for Nadia, she has so many dreams I just hope one day she is able to fulfil at least one of them.
"One of the standout memories from over the years has to be when the Project moved to West Bar in 2000. All the staff and the people we support were led from the Cathedral to the new site by a Jazz Band. The move meant that for the first time the whole project was on one site and it became the blueprint for the building we have today."
Discover more about the history of the Archer Project
I have been working for the project since 2003 and over the last 17 years have seen many changes, from the small office on East Parade and the Project on West Bar to the new build at the back of the Cathedral where we are currently housed.
My role has grown over the years and I don’t think any other office Manager can say their role is quite as diverse as this one – I can be dealing with all aspects of office administration/finance/HR to cleaning the toilets, serving breakfast, helping on front desk to dealing with 999 calls and first aid.
My time here has changed my perception of homelessness and the issues and challenges surrounding it. There have been some heart-breaking stories, which have bought me to tears, to some of the heart-warming ones, which show a person’s journey, and their endurance in working towards a better life. Laughter and a sense of humour I believe keeps me going and sharing that with an equally diverse team and the people that use the centre.
I was asked to provide a story or two of my time working here, but find it difficult to cherry pick particular ones:
Dealing with some of the first aid calls on one hand is quite traumatic; you are dealing with someone at their lowest, and on the other hand they need compassion and care. But often I have found that somewhere along the line, people open up and chat and a good dose of humour can be thrown in for good measure. Sometimes I can forget that what appears as a ‘normal ‘ day at the project, is far from it to those not used to it.
I love the stories that people share and am amazed at the endurance of the human spirit; knowing what someone’s back story is can give you a new found respect of the struggles they have been through in becoming who they are now. Each person whether staff, volunteer or person that uses the centre has their own personal life experiences, which I think, counts towards a deeper understanding. You are never too old to learn.
A few years ago we had some funding which enabled us to reconnect people back to where they came from – some events for these individuals were quite traumatic but we managed to get them to the safety of home, some in this country and some abroad. We had one man that came to us after walking from Worksop –he had been employed as a drivers’ mate from Poland and they had made a delivery to Worksop; on reaching there Rob* went to the sandwich shop, but when he returned to the truck, found that the driver had left without him. I managed to get him a flight back to Poland. A couple of days later we thought that he had gone, only to be surprised when he turned up the next day, after walking from Doncaster Airport. He explained that he was so tired; he fell asleep and missed the call for boarding. We did eventually get him back home.
When I was asked to make a contribution to mark the 30th Anniversary of Cathedral Archer Project I had many highlights to choose from and which one to write about was the question! 2018 was a massive year for me. Collaborating with Sheffield Print Club our Printed By Us Team had the honour of Hand Screen Printing work commissioned by 10 local artists, to form part of Pete Mckee’s first exhibition in 10 years, entitled “This Class Works”.
Following my appointment as Operations Manager in January and the birth of our 3 beautiful boys in March, this year was one of huge challenges. The months before the exhibition in July were spent in the workshop, working hard to produce the complex and ambitious pieces.
Together with Hannah and Heather at the print club, watching our team rise to these challenges was a joy to watch and be part of. We attended the opening night premiere on July 14th. To see the work we had created in the same building alongside that of one of Sheffield’s most iconic artists was amazing!
I am so proud of everyone involved and will hold those memories for a lifetime!
Happy 30th Anniversary CAP. Thank you for your hope, belief in people and the tireless work you continue to do.
"The Archer Project has been our nominated charity for the last few years. Through working with them, we've witnessed first hand how hard they work to get homeless people the help and support they need. We believe that everyone should have a safe place to call home."
“Remember it’s not just homeless, it’s the fact that they haven’t got anything to eat, haven’t got anything to wear… they haven’t got access to anything. And if these sorts of places like the Archer Project weren’t open they wouldn’t have access to a dentist or a doctors, or a hairdresser… or a shower, or getting some clothes washed…how do you get them washed?
There are humans on earth that have been dealt a really rubbish set of cards,
And for those people life in this world is really very hard,
But, there are saviours watch over those that society ignores,
That care about those beings that have no choice but to sleep outside on the floor,
Deep in the heart of Sheffield, a building on Campo Lane comes to mind,
Inside the Cathedral Archer Project is where some of those saviours reside.
Back in 1989 was when this wonderful project began,
Offering food to those in need – even fun activities were ran,
As time went on more services were added and the Project expanded and grew,
Laundry services, showers and accommodation were offered – to name just a few!
We all deserve an enjoyable and fulfilling life to live without any fears,
And the Cathedral Archer Project has been supporting their clients for an amazing thirty years!
Clients, just like any other group of people, come in all shapes and sizes,
Each has different needs, from just eating to chatting, and every day is full of surprises,
There’s nothing better than providing a listening ear and for that person to be so thankful after,
There are even times that by the end of a conversation the air will be filled with laughter!
Even making a small difference in somebody’s life, there really is no better feeling,
After leaving the building more often than not, life feels like it’s full of meaning.
To be part of the team made up of staff and volunteers is an honour and privilege,
Although it’s immensely fulfilling, it doesn’t come without it’s challenges,
On some days it is not uncommon to be on the receiving end of someone’s bad mood,
But, what is there to say – if my life had gone that way, I’d be in a bad mood too,
Witnessing the hardship of others and the cracked foundations on which some lives are built,
The warm feeling achieved from simply assisting can be laced with feelings of guilt.
Even through there’s been new challenges the saviours continue to help – even in the conditions 2020 has set,
It’s a truly saddening thought, what would happen to those precious souls were it not for the Cathedral Archer Project?
For everybody that needs even the most basic of necessities, the help will never stop,
For those forgotten and looked down on by society, the Project will forget not,
There’ll be many more moments of laughter and no doubt more moments of tears,
Here’s to the Cathedral Archer Project and here’s to another thirty years!