Founded in Sheffield in 1989, HARC provides a safe haven for vulnerable men and women during the day over the Christmas period when other services are closed. Based at the Archer Project, guests are served 3 meals a day, and provided with entertainment and other services.
Today was my first volunteering shift with HARC, and here’s what I saw.
People in need. Real, genuine, and at times desperate need.
Vulnerable people at their lowest ebb. Hungry, cold, draped in sleeping bags.
Signs of addiction. People living complex and chaotic lives.
Anxiety and mistrust. A need to be sat facing the door at all times. People on edge, jumpy and rattled.
Older people, dressed proudly in their smartest clothes, feeling unsure as they edged in; faces breaking into a smile when they saw a familiar face inside.
People from across the city and further afield, all sitting together on tinsel wrapped chairs.
Endless cups of tea and coffee, biscuits dunked, crumbs scattered.
Bowls of cereal and fruit piled high and demolished.
So. Much. Toast.
Cooked breakfasts, bacon and sausage butties, sauce dripped on chins, plates licked clean.
More tea. Always more tea.
Laundry being done. People swapping their tired and worn out boots for a donated pair with no holes. And fresh socks and underwear. And the smiles that go with that little bit of comfort.
A hairdresser and a podiatrist. “Get your name on the list if you want to be seen”.
Card tricks, pool skills, and requests for bingo.
“How long till lunchtime, and what’s for pudding?”
Plates piled high with curry. Bowls filled with sticky toffee pudding and custard.
And more tea.
I also saw compassion and understanding.
I saw volunteers greet guests as true friends.
I saw hugs, high fives and casual nods of acknowledgement.
I saw volunteers going the extra mile. People saying, “I’m not sure, but I’ll see what I can do”.
I saw care and empathy. I saw acceptance, with no judgement.
I saw an elder gentleman arrive in desperate need. I saw a volunteer guide him to the shower, fresh towels in hand. I saw a new outfit of clean clothes, a mug of hot tea and a cooked breakfast. I saw thanks. So much thanks.
I saw love.
HARC; you were exhausting and relentless, yet inspirational and motivational.
Until next year!