"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).
Steph, one of our fab volunteers is leaving and she has shared what she has got out of helping at the project.
Homelessness is something that I have always thought a lot about so deciding to investigate it for my third year dissertation just made sense and was the perfect opportunity to delve in and find out more. I have always wondered about the stories behind homelessness and if it was at all possible for me to find out if a solution was out there somewhere. I decided that in order for me to write a 10,000-word essay on homelessness, information off the internet just wouldn’t suffice. I had to get myself out there, engage with those who knew it the most, those who had suffered and are suffering it. I wanted to become involved in some way.
I contacted the Cathedral Archer Project and became a volunteer two days a week. From the offset I was involved in most aspects of the project. As the weeks went by I often found myself forgetting about my dissertation investigation. I found myself wanting to be at CAP to help others.
Week by week clients grew to know me and I began to know them. I learnt early on that to build a strong relationship with clients could often take months sometimes years but the astounding staff at CAP had managed this. Strong and trusting relationships were definitely present at CAP between staff and clients and were visible daily. The relationship between staff and clients was something that stood out to me from the beginning. I soon understood that for clients, CAP is a lifeline and a place they treasure. For them it feels safe here, it’s a friendly face on a dull morning.
Hearing clients’ stories over my time at CAP is something that will always be a big part of my experience. For them to feel able to open up to me meant a great deal and those stories will stay with me for a lifetime.
CAP has given me an unforgettable experience and although I may have helped clients at CAP with a friendly face in the morning, an ear to listen to, placed their washing in the machine or helped make a phone call, the clients at CAP have helped me. They have helped me to realise that homelessness can happen to anyone. To me, to you, to the person sat next to you. Homelessness does not define a person. Homelessness is not a self-contained event but a series of events that happen in a person’s life and the way in which those events have affected that person.
Being involved in CAP is one of the most rewarding things I have done to date. The courage the clients have and the smiles that still appear on their faces during such a difficult life event is astonishing.
18th of March 2016 – the night of The Sleep Out in aid of The Cathedral Archer Project! Or as I dubbed it at 10 to 6 the following morning “The Wake Out”.....
I’d signed up for the event a few weeks before and I was really grateful for all the sponsorship that had been coming in, but when it got to the day itself I felt a little nervous as I’d no real idea of what to expect nor even how many other people were taking part; all I knew was that I’d be sleeping outside the Cathedral for the night. Once at the Archer Project I realised that there would be quite a few of us and we were made to feel welcome and although it was a little quiet to start with everyone started chatting and mingling and then we were given an introductory talk by Tracy and Tim. This gave us more information on what to expect from the night and on the work of the project and some insight into just how difficult it must be in every way to be homeless on an ongoing basis. We were also given a tour of the Project building and we all started to realise just how many things the Project provides, and why. For of course there are all sorts of different aspects to being homeless not just that you are sleeping rough (as if that wasn’t enough!), for instance something as simple as not being able to get yourself a hot drink when you fancied one or popping to the shops for some food for your tea and a whole of host of other things that we take for granted every day of our lives. Some examples of what the Project provides are washing facilities – where else could you get your washing done without any money to pay for a laundrette?; breakfasts for around 80 people arriving at the centre every day (this costs £550.00 per week on its own); an educational room; a “surgery” where you can be seen by a doctor, or a nurse or a dentist. There are also a few computers – another thing that most people have access to all the time and take for granted, and the list goes on....
It had been raining when we arrived but by the time Tim led us round to the front of the Cathedral with all our gear about 8.30pm – we must have looked a motley crew – it had stopped. This was very kind of the weather! We all started to look for our “spot” to plonk our things. The BBC Radio 4 programme “Any Questions” was being broadcast from inside the Cathedral that night and we were all eager for it to finish so we could stand with a collection bucket outside the front doors and hopefully collect some extra donations from the audience coming out. We told people what we were doing there, and why, some seemed amazed, some ignored us and others gave generously (the collection raised another £120.00!). Maybe this was a slight reflection on what it must be like to be on the street: some people are amazed you’re there at all, most just ignore you and occasionally, hopefully, someone might be generous towards you in some way. However, nothing could have prepared us for what Gav told us as he took us on a tour of the city centre and showed us where he and others spend their nights when sleeping rough. Some of the stories were horrific, the violence some rough sleepers have experienced was unbelievable, and he kept reiterating how it was to be out on your own with no protection and hearing people coming in your direction...”you just keep your head down and hope they leave you alone”, the loneliness, the boredom, the exclusion all came through loud and clear. It was a sobering tour.
We all bedded down at different times. I got into my sleeping bags about midnight, (I’d taken 2 and some cardboard and what I hoped would be a waterproof layer to go over the cardboard, and a Thermarest sleeping mat – how lucky was I to be able to take all that!?) and there was a lot of camaraderie, something that would be missing from every rough sleepers evening. I have to say that I wasn’t cold at all, apart from my face. But again this was because I’m lucky enough to have a lot of warm clothing and I’d wrapped up really well. Quite a few other people were cold throughout the night and that would have been much more how it feels on a daily and nightly basis for anyone sleeping out. The noise of the city kept most of us awake, and this was one thing in particular that really made me think: how can anyone function when they’ve been freezing cold all night and not had much, if any sleep, (I certainly didn’t get any) and especially when they have to endure this on a continual basis? That on its own must be something that’s terribly difficult to live with. Amazingly, we were watched over all night by JJ, Gav and a couple of other guys who I unfortunately didn’t get chance to talk to so didn’t find out their names properly. Despite being out under the stars in the middle of town this made me feel safe and was a luxury which they would never get for themselves and it brought a lump to my throat. And the noise of the city continued....
When we got up we were given breakfast and thanked for taking part, but I felt like I’d not done anything at all as it was easy for us knowing that we could leave in the morning and go home and have a shower or a bath. Easy for us to go and get into a warm, safe bed and then get up again when we felt like it. Easy for us to make ourselves a meal and get a hot drink as and when we needed to. And easy for us to have a nap at tea time and then go about our daily business the day after as if nothing had happened at all. This bears no resemblance to a “real” rough sleepers life; never getting any proper rest, being vulnerable out on your own for hours just waiting for it to get light again. And that's before you've started looking for food, somewhere to get warm, do your washing, get clean, or maybe having to concentrate to fill a form in, or remember an appointment or basically just trying to survive the day before you have to survive another night.... and that’s not to mention the boredom and the loneliness and the lack of any “home comforts” and the general wearing down of “self” that such a life must bring. Our humbling experience was something that I wouldn’t have missed and I would recommend everyone to do it at least once just to glimpse what we can only really try to imagine; a hard, hard life which we only scratched the surface of with our “Wake Out” event.
On Friday 18th of September, Total Linguistics’ Directors Michelle Daniel and Eleanor Bagust swapped the comfort of their warm beds for a night sleeping on the streets of Sheffield City Centre. The purpose of the sleep out, organised by the Sheffield Archer Project, was to raise awareness and money for the homeless and vulnerable in Sheffield.
Thanks to the generous donations from their supporters the pair raised a fantastic £831.26, which will go towards funding some of the vital services the charity provides such as food, showers, laundry, fresh clothes and access to medical services.
The night itself was an insightful and thoughtful experience for the two directors,
‘It was both thought-provoking and saddening to meet homeless people in Sheffield. The reasons people end up on the streets are so varied. Clients of the project showed us where they slept, often behind bins in dark alleyways. They explained some of the issues they faced on a daily basis such as not being able to get dry if it rains or the constant fear of being attacked’ Michelle explained.
Eleanor also added ‘We were able to come home in the morning and have a warm shower and clean clothes, the thought of not having somewhere safe and warm to go to every evening is unimaginable. Going through this has given us a small glimpse of what it is like to be on the streets and has made us so much more aware of the issue'.
Huge thank you to Michelle and Ellie for joining us and raising a fantastic amount to help the homeless in Sheffield.
It’s been a few months since the cold evening in March when Tom Mundy, Graeme Cameron and Lindsey Hible took part in the Cathedral Archer Project Sleep Out in Sheffield City Centre. This has given them all plenty of time to reflect on the evening and also appreciate what we all have that we often take for granted.
Thanks has to go to everyone that sponsored the trio and to those gave them much needed encouragement and support prior to and during the Sleep Out. Through colleagues, friends and family, they managed to raise a fantastic amount of £1,120, which when doubled by B.Braun as agreed by Hans, gave a final total of £2,240! This broke all of our expectations and smashed the initial target of £300, so thank you all once again!
With our money combined with that of the other individuals and company representatives attending the Sleep Out, over £8,000 (and growing) was raised for the Archer Project! This money should be of great assistance to the project and will have also spread awareness of the charity.
The night itself started off with an introduction from Tim Renshaw, CEO of the Archer Project, who thanked everyone for attending, and then went on to explain a little about what rough living can be like. He told several thought provoking stories and identified the volunteers from the Archer Project that would be spending the night with us.
After the talk, we were shown out to the front of the Cathedral at around 8pm, where we would be sleeping for the night. It was at that point that the reality of the experience dawned on some of the 35 or so attendees. People broke off into their social groups and started laying out cardboard and roll mats in preparation for the night ahead. Over the next 5 or 6 hours, you could feel and hear the City Centre, including the thousands of people enjoying their Friday night out. You became very aware of how noisy the trams are, how bright the street lights are, and just how exposed you feel sleeping outside.
At around 9:30pm, Gavin, a long term homeless person and volunteer at the Archer Project, took some of the Sleep Out attendees on a tour of the usual rough sleeping areas in the centre of Sheffield. As you were shown down dark, dead-end alleyways that you didn’t even know existed, you became aware of the more often overlooked side effects of being homeless; those of loneliness and boredom. Gavin explained the usual technique for bedding up for a night would be to pad out a doorway with cardboard, cover yourself in the same and then pull a wheelie bin in front of you.
As the night went on, people started to try and get some sleep, with most people probably not managing more than 4-5 hours of ‘sleep’. The night sky was clear and so the temperature dropped a little more than was expected by some, which helped with the experience in my opinion. At around 6am, people started to rise and pack up their sleeping bags and we were invited into the Cathedral for a hot sandwich and drink. The volunteers from the Archer Project gave us a closing statement before everyone took part in a group photo. The main feeling amongst people that I spoke to was that of “I couldn’t do that again tonight!”.
Overall, the experience was well worth taking part in, and it’s certainly given me a lot more insight into the sorts of struggles people living and sleeping rough have to think about. I’d encourage anyone else to take part if you can next time.
I am not sure what I was expecting from the sleep out. I held various feelings: excitement , fear, anticipation, nervousness.
When we arrived, we met the other participants. There was a variety of different people from young to old and from corporate to individual. The evening was opened with a talk from Tim Renshaw, the CEO of the Cathedral Archer Project. This was a inspiring start and really hit home the struggles and challenges that the homeless and vulnerable have to endure. We then left the Cathedral Archer Centre to go outside and prepare for the evening ahead! Unfortunately, there were no home comforts as we laid our sleeping bags around the cathedral walls.
Gavin, who was homeless and part of the Cathedral Archer Project, took us on a tour of Sheffield City Centre and the areas where he slept. Gavin showed us the door ways and the bins behind where he slept. All of a sudden our sleeping bags on the grass of the cathedral seemed luxurious!
Gavin and Tim explained to us that the life of a homeless person is not as 'simple' as finding a place to sleep. The police move them on, the cold and bad weather hurts them, they are in fear of others attacking them, they are hungry, they often have psychological challenges and they are often dependant on alcohol and substances.
We then bedded down to start a night out in the open. We only got limited sleep as a consequence of the cold, the traffic and the noise from revellers but the reality was that we had it easy compared to the real homeless of Sheffield. We were sleeping for 10 hours outside and then we returned to the comforts of our homes , to warm food and a shower. The homeless never have such luck!
The experience was both humbling and inspiring. The team and volunteers at the Cathedral Archer Project looked after us and made us feel safe. It really hit home how lucky we are. We would like to thank everyone for their generosity and kindness. This is a wonderful charity and the donations go a long way to support the plight of the homeless and those less fortunate than ourselves. Thank you.
After years of camping, I was not really phased by the prospect of sleeping outside, although I must say that I was worried about it raining all night. On the day the weather was kind, the rain held off with the temperature staying at about 5 degrees.
We were taken on a tour by a man who has been homeless on and off for 20 years. 20 years I thought, this has been his entire adult life. Gavin was now living in Samaritan run accommodation and selling the Big Issue to pay his rent. We walked through the centre of my home city and down side streets I did not know existed, and the thought of how lonely and vulnerable they must feel occupied my mind, as I chatted to Gavin. He explained how they sleep in wheelie bins if they can find them and that they pull them up to door ways so they have shelter for their heads and legs as he told me; the new posh bedding I had just spent too much money on crossed my mind. We also met a man who was bedding down for the night, and I wondered what series of events had placed him here.
The people we met were great and we survived the night. My first reflection was on how I could now go home and how hard it must be to do night after night. However It was not on the night itself that the experience hit home, but in the following days in the little thoughts and internal grumbles of day to day life.
I plan to hold this experience in mind and take my son Max when he is older.
On Friday 20th March we held a sleep out at the Cathedral. Following the event we asked the people who took part to pledge to do something. One of the things we asked our supporters was to write a story/blog of their experience. This is a particularly thought provoking example of one individual’s experience of sleeping on the streets.
Thinking Out Loud
The best part of a Sleep Out for the Cathedral Archer Project is the not-sleeping.
Here comes a tram, which groans to a halt at the stop in front of the Cathedral and disgorges the Friday night revellers; mostly young people whose pale, exposed flesh puts to shame the layers of clothes I am wearing to keep me warm through the long night ahead. The bright screens of their mobile phones flash as they scurry off to their chosen destinations to meet their friends, where they will gather together in some trendy bar in West Street or Division Street and spend the evening texting other people. Some glance across with curious expressions to where I and my comrades-in-sleeping-bags are scattered along the ground in front of the cathedral, but they don’t stop. I suspect that with their lack of clothing they need to keep moving or risk freezing to death.
“So, what made you come here tonight,” I ask an amiable woman who is making up a bed for herself and her daughter on a foundation of cardboard next to where I and my partner have stretched out our sleeping bags.
“It was my daughter,” she says with mock ruefulness. Her daughter is about twelve and when I look at her for an explanation she gives me an infectious smile that belies the serious look in her concerned eyes.
“I read about the Sleep Out in a newsletter,” she says. “It’s something we should do because we’ve got everything and some people have got nothing.”
She makes me smile. The uncomplicated thought process of the young. No thought of why you shouldn’t do it. In the modern idiom, it’s simples. She leans her back against the cathedral wall, pulls her knees up under her chin and wraps her arms around them, watching intently the scene before us as taxis and buses flash by beneath the streetlights.
“Why are you here,” she asks eventually with a shy glance at me.
In that same moment, a young man, looking slightly unsteady on his feet, shouts out from the pavement about thirty yards away, “What are you lot doing over there?”
Nobody answers and his female companion unfolds her arms from across her chest and pulls him away.
“Good question,” I reply to the girl and follow it with, “Same as you.”
Good question indeed, I think to myself as I adopt the same pose as the young girl and stare at the unfolding story of city nightlife. I’m here because I’m led by my lovely, socially aware partner, who is already burrowing her feet into her sleeping bag, having come to the conclusion, after much debate, that it’s best to keep her boots on. I would follow her anywhere, but on this occasion it suddenly occurs to me that there’s more to it than that. Sitting in the shadowed corner of the cathedral wall with a chill breeze fanning my face, I can see the life of the city, but I, along with my companions for the night, am not part of it. Some people glance in our direction, but none stop.
“I’ve been here before,” I say, turning to the young girl.
“What do you mean?” she asks as her mother shifts her position on their makeshift bed so she can hear what I have to say.
I have to think about what I’m going to say. It’s not something I have spoken about for most of my adult life. I don’t want to be drawn into a complicated story.
“I’ve been homeless,” I say.
“What was it like?” she asks. I can see the genuine interest in her eyes.
“A bit like this, but alone,” I say, hoping that’s enough, but she wants more.
“Why were you homeless?”
“I didn’t have a family and I didn’t have a home.”
This is getting into territory I’m uncomfortable with, but she is so pretty and earnest that I have to go on.
“I was brought up in children’s homes,” I explain. “When the time came you were sent out into the world to fend for yourself. There were no aftercare services.”
“But they didn’t just send you onto the streets, did they?” she blurts out with a look of shock.
“No, I had lodgings to go to.”
“Well that’s something,” she says with relief. “Why didn’t you stay there?”
I have to pause. How can you explain such things to a child? Fortunately, her mother seems eager to stop her pressing me and insists it’s time for her to get some sleep and even though the girl protests she gets under the covers and puts her head down. Her mother lies down next to her and puts her arm around her.
For the next few hours I watch the night-time play go through its familiar acts until the buses and trams stop running, the drunks bawl and argue their way home and only lonely taxis are left to plough the streets alone. That girl has got under my skin and all the while I am thinking. Maybe, of all the people on this sleep out, she is the one who really wants to get under the skin of this homeless thing and not just do her thing for a worthwhile charity? Why did I make myself homeless? That’s the thing about homelessness most people struggle to understand.
Start at the beginning. I left the approved lodgings I had been placed in after a life in care because it was part of the system; a system I never wanted to be part of again. In my mind I ran away, although in retrospect no one came after me. I felt like a fugitive; from what it’s hard to say, but that feeling stayed with me for years. At first I went to London and stayed there for quite a while, but after that I travelled around the country and also around Europe. I did any temporary job I could find, whatever it was. If I had money I rented places to stay, but because I always hitchhiked from place to place to an uncertain timetable and because finding a job was not guaranteed I often slept out wherever I could. If it was in the country it was in fields, under hedges or in abandoned buildings. If it was in the city was out of sight in alleys or stairwells; even, on more than one occasion, in public toilets. Even if I had no money I never signed on to the dole. I would never submit myself to any authority. I would have died first.
Eventually I broke out of that existence, settled down, started a family and made my way through life with increasing success until I find myself where I am now, cold and tired among people who have taken some time out from their everyday lives to help others. The young girl is invisible under her sleeping bag. I hope she’s sleeping well. They say the city never sleeps, but it’s starting to doze. Remarkably, no one has approached us despite a few catcalls. The thought brings a particular memory into sharp focus. It’s the closest I’ll ever get to feeling again what I felt so often all those years ago. Here we are in plain sight yet we don’t exist. Somewhere in this city tonight is someone like my former self; invisible in plain sight; in the city but not of the city; move on please.
I get some sleep, of sorts. In the morning we are awoken to a hot breakfast by the good people of the Cathedral Archer Project and receive our Sleep Out certificates and wristbands. We all feel good, but that mother with the young girl clutching her certificate should feel especially proud. I wish I could tell the girl everything she wants to know, but she’s too young to hear such things.