"If it weren’t for you lot I’d still be on the streets."
Please read our latest stories below (names and images changed to protect identities).
Sarah has joined the Cathedral Archer Project as our latest member of staff, and is primarily working as part of our Just Works programme. She is working with the women who use the Project (and women who are referred from other agencies) to support them to build their own nests.
A key part of Sarah’s work is to promote healthier lifestyles and improve the women’s individual overall wellbeing. She does this through providing volunteering and employment related opportunities to support the women in building their confidence, trust and self-esteem. These women include individuals who have used the Archer Project as well as those referred by other vulnerable adult services including Housing First and Domestic Abuse.
Using a combination of multi-agency collaboration, 1-1 support, access to volunteer programmes and the Just Works Programme, she tailors the approach around each individual’s needs, strengths and aspirations.
Abbey has been referred by another agency. Her English is very limited and she is a quiet individual. To help bring her out of her shell Sarah has been taking Abbey for trips out in the city, such as to the Millennium Galleries and out for pizza. Spending time on a 1-1 basis with Abbey has lead to trust developing between them, and despite the language barrier they have managed to have a laugh and a joke, and Abbey is now fulfilling employed hours through the Just Works cleaning contracts.
When facing a substance addiction or dependence, the initial push into recovery can often be the hardest thing someone does.
The group KickBack Recovery aims to help individuals to make those steps and keep making those steps through creating a space where people can share their experiences. Addiction is not easily overcome with many who attend the group having had substance issues for decades.
When visiting one Wednesday morning it was clear that attendees were often struggling with their addictions and their place in the world, but these worries and fears were reassured by Mick (project organiser) and the volunteers.
One of the key aspects of KickBack Recovery is that it allows an accessible approach to recovery, and creates a community that is supportive.
People often come and go as they please from the meeting, as there was no pressure to stay if they feel uncomfortable or effected by the emotional stories being told.
Every meeting begins with an icebreaker activity to help people feel more comfortable. Then individuals share their stories and update each other on their progress. Often guest speakers attend the group and share their experience with addiction and recovery to inspire and motivate the group.
One of the volunteers who has been involved in the group for several months highlighted how the meetings are a safe place to talk with others, to share how their recovery is going, and a place to signpost individuals to other services of support.
On Fridays the meeting takes a different course, with a day trip that aims to provide the group with some valuable time away to take a breather. The group takes pack lunches and goes to places such as Castleton, Chatsworth House, and even Emmerdale Studios.
For many KickBack Recovery has provided them with a vital lifeline: “It’s a big deal to ask for help admit there’s a problem. Coming to the Archer Project was the best thing I ever did.”
Sasha, a journalist student, sits in on our screenwriting group last Friday.
The Archer Project runs a wide variety of groups and activities for those who use the centre, including social media, art and film clubs. Every six months the activities change, allowing people to explore new hobbies and interests. All the groups aim at helping individuals to build their confidence, self-esteem and provide them with a sense of achievement.
This week I got involved in the Friday screenwriting group run by two partner volunteers*. The screenwriting group use prompts to come up with their own scripts - they have even made short films out of these!
The focus this week was on discussion: we looked at the magazine ‘The Unexplained’ and debated all things supernatural, including ghosts and old-school mysteries.
Everyone got involved as we discussed our opinions on what we thought about some of the creepiest unexplained stories we could find, and it was easy to see why so many people enjoy coming to the activities. It gave those there a space to express themselves, to develop their own opinions and explore new topics.
One of the volunteers who co-ordinates some of the groups spoke about the impact that these can have on those who participate:
“We’ve had groups such as social media, colouring and photography, but the most popular are the educational and job search based activities…[everyone who comes] builds a lot of confidence.”
*Partner volunteers, are volunteers who also access the services and support that the Project offers.
Sasha, a student volunteer, shares her first impressions of volunteering at the Archer Project.
Having lived in a big city for the past few years now, I've been more than aware of the fact that homelessness is a problem that could potentially affect anyone, with up to a quarter of a million people in the UK living without any shelter. Giving loose bits of change to people on the street can often seem like a quick way to provide help, but what about the people who go that extra step further? I've been visiting The Cathedral Archer Project to find out.
My first visit was on a Friday morning, and at first I was unsure of what to expect. I was given a tour of the building by volunteers, finding out that they not only provide two hot meals a day but also have showers, laundry facilities, medical services and run activities. The aim is to make those who use the centre feel like it is a home, a safe place and a refuge. I was told that I'd come at a fairly quiet time, but the atmosphere was still bustling and busy.
I started chatting to Mark*, who'd started coming to the Archer Project 18 years ago, after beginning at the Salvation Army when he'd been walking the streets at 4am every night.
"I had a lot of anger that needed to be controlled and I was just fighting the world."
He explained that the Archer Project had provided him with the help he needed in order to come full circle, and eventually he started volunteering.
"I come down most days, and I do it for me. I think it helps that I can relate to the people and their situations."
For individuals like Mark the Project provides more than just a place to rest, but a place to develop, gain new skills, and be himself.
*Names have been changed to protect individuals.
One of our service users, Chris, recently gave this talk at our Christmas Carol service. We were so impressed we'd thought we'd reproduce it here for all of our supporters to read!
'Before I went to the Archer all I did was sit in my flat and take drugs – which made me really depressed. I had the same routine day after day, the more drugs I took the more depressed I became. I just knew I had to do something about my life or I would not make it to Christmas.
I went to the Archer and told the staff the kind of life I was living and asked them for help. They offered me a volunteering role six months ago. And since then I have started to turn my life around. I also started a class at the project called the Brink so that people with drug problems could get together and help each other.
After a couple of months I got nominated as a recovery volunteer of the year – I never thought I had a chance of winning until they called my name out. It is the first thing I have ever won and I felt so proud because I am doing something I really love doing – and getting an award for it.
So now I am off drugs and I look forward to getting up in the mornings and I will be spending Christmas Day with my 14 year old son for the first time in years.
I am so happy that I reached out and asked for the help I needed. Over Christmas I hope I can volunteer and help people just as much as I was helped. I want to say thanks to everyone at the Archer Project for making me so happy and to wish you all a good Christmas.'