There’s not many places to go in Sheffield on a Sunday if you are homeless or vulnerably housed, socially excluded or in need of company, a hot drink and a home cooked meal.
But one place where you’ll be welcomed with open arms is The Sunday Centre, on George Street in the city centre, staffed by volunteers and running every week, it provides a place of warmth and nourishment to those in need.
I volunteered to work a shift on Sunday to find out more about the Centre, the work they do and their guests. Here’s my experience, in numbers:
- -1c outside, with snow falling
- 1.30pm – doors open to a queue of about 30 people
- 15 volunteers ready and waiting, with ages ranging from University students upwards
- 3 volunteer chefs working away in a small but perfectly functional kitchen
- Tea and coffee bar serving almost 200 drinks in 2 hours; piping hot tea and coffee, hot chocolate, squash and soup
- 8 packets of biscuits dunked into drinks, with a few complaints that there were no digestives this week!
- 2pm – 2 course dinner served to guests. Today’s menu was a chicken dish, with cauliflower cheese, potato wedges and vegetables, followed by cake and custard
- 70 hungry guests fed, before the volunteers polished off the leftovers. Not a scrap was wasted!
- Guests were 90% male, the majority of them regulars, sharing a laugh and a joke with the volunteers
- 70 gift bags gratefully received on the way out, stuffed with fruit, cakes, bread, buns and pasties, donated by Greggs and Roses the Bakers
- 3.30pm – last of the guests head back out into the cold
So what are my reflections on the shift?
Honestly, I was a little shocked at the level of need that exists in the city. People were really, really hungry and very cold. The huge majority were grateful, polite and friendly, and the Centre obviously plays a major part in keeping them fed and well, particularly in the winter. The volunteers were inspiring in their selflessness, working away to benefit others, never complaining, and always ready to share a joke with the guests.
One couple I spoke to had recently moved to the city from Barnsley, and had only just found out about the Centre. They said that nothing like the Sunday Centre exists in Barnsley, and were so thankful for their hot cuppas, sweetened with 3 sugars, warming their freezing hands on their mugs as we chatted about why they had moved, and what had been going on in their lives.
I wonder how many cities and towns across the country have no shelters for homeless and vulnerable people to go to for a warm, some kindness and a hot meal? There must be more that we can do as a country to support people in need; people with chaotic lives, no stable home, mental health conditions and addictions. The Sunday Centre, and other charities and organisations in the city play such a crucial role, but need seems to be increasing year on year.
My shift was a hugely eye opening experience, and I feel motivated to do more, to support the Centre when I can and spread the word to encourage others to do the same.
What can people do to help?
- The Centre relies totally on donations, as it receives no funding, so anything you are able to give would make a real difference to their work.
- Current support from local businesses is great, but more corporate support is always welcomed. If you are a business who may be able to support the Sunday Centre, please contact them here.
- Individuals can support the Centre by donating fruit, cereal bars, toiletries, biscuits and cakes for the tea bar.
- If you are able to donate cash, £20 covers the cost of 10 guests attending a Sunday session, and £100 covers the cost of one guest attending for a full year.
- Volunteers are what keeps the Centre running, but there’s no compulsion to work every Sunday – you would be welcome as a one off, once a month, or as and when you were able to help. If you know you will have a spare couple of hours on a Sunday lunchtime/early afternoon, why not consider volunteering?
- To support the work of the Sunday Centre, in any way, please contact them via their website: https://thesundaycentre.org/volunteer-with-us/