For the first of our series of interviews with local charities and organisations, SheffGives caught up with John and Jennie Slater, the creators of Pending Coffee in Sheffield to find out more about how this fabulous scheme is supporting some of the city’s most vulnerable residents.
SheffGives: Tell us a little about the history of Pending Coffee – what led you to set up the scheme?
John: My wife Jennie and I collaborated on a number of projects which we used to raise awareness and funding for homeless and vulnerable people of Sheffield. One being a cabaret style show called ‘The Berlin Diaries’ working with local professionals and service users of Crisis. The sold out shows achieved more than we hoped but they were only ‘quick wins’ in comparison to the enormity of the situation. Jennie had heard of a similar scheme to Pending Coffee happening in other European countries and so the idea is far from unique. We couldn’t find any ‘pay-it-forward’ schemes happening in Sheffield at the time so decided to give Pending Coffee a go.
SG: For those who are not familiar with the concept, how does ‘pending coffee’ work?
J: The simplest way of explaining it is exactly how it’s described on our posters which goes something like this. Pending Coffee is much more than giving a homeless person a free drink or snack, it’s about fulfilling basic human need. An extra drink or snack you kindly pay for can then be redeemed by someone in need. It does rely on the honesty of its users and the judgment of local establishments taking part.
SG: How is the scheme helping to support some of the city’s most vulnerable residents?
J: We’re under no illusion that this is changing anyone’s life, but we based the premise of Pending Coffee on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which in its most basic form suggests everyone’s physiological needs are Food, Water, Shelter and Clothing building all the way up to self actuation and acceptance in society.
And that’s where we feel Pending Coffee offers an important part of our daily lives so many of us take for granted. Being accepted socially. Begging on the street shouldn’t exist in today’s world but sadly we see the figures grow. Pending Coffee offers social interaction by simply offering an opportunity for someone to walk into a cafe and obtain a donated drink or snack. Sit in a friendly space and who knows what follows.
SG: What does the future look like for the scheme – are you hoping to expand to more independent cafes across the city?
J: Full time commitment isn’t something either of us could offer hence keeping the scheme extremely simple. What makes it work is word of mouth. We see new faces on the streets weekly and the more people tell them about the scheme, the more it will be used by donors and users alike. Cafes do contact us from time to time wishing to take part and that is always welcome but at the end of the day, we’re not the gatekeepers. Anyone can take part, display a poster in their window and encourage people to donate.
Italia Uno is one such place that has gone above and beyond. Based at the top of Ecclesall Road, the number of people who could use the service is quite minimal in comparison to town centre cafes, but their customers are some of the best donators and so the manager, Kim, personally delivers her donated pizzas directly to those in need. She’s an amazing ambassador for the scheme and Sheffield generosity as a whole.
SG: How can SheffGives followers get involved and lend their support to your scheme?
J: Spread the word. It’s that simple.
SG: And finally, we’re buying, what’s your coffee of choice?
J: A black Americano for me and an Oat Milk latte for Jennie – Thank you 🙂
A full list of the cafes linked up to the Pending Coffee scheme is available here. Next time you fancy a coffee when you are in the city centre, why not visit one of these cafes, and pay it forward by buying a pending coffee too. And if you are an independent cafe owner interested in joining the scheme, click here to contact Pending Coffee.