Ben’s Centre for Vulnerable People (Sheffield) is a Registered Charity No. 1087606 and a Company Limited by Guarantee No. 3896342.
We have been providing a day service to Sheffield’s street drinkers for over 17 years. The project provides a “damp” day service to street drinkers, some of the most vulnerable and excluded citizens of Sheffield, and as such is unique in its provision. The project works to accept individuals where they are and acts as a bridge between an individuals chaotic street drinking lifestyle and one that enables them to fulfill their potential as individuals in society.
The philosophy that the project is based on is one of harm minimisation – reducing the impact chronic alcohol abuse has – and inclusiveness – providing a service to those who are frequently excluded from other service
provision because of their high levels of intoxication.
Our mission statement is
‘ a place of Stability for Sheffield Street Drinkers.’
which identifies the need for a place of safety, a place removed from the chaos of living a life on the streets, a place where street drinkers can have their immediate needs met.
This mission statement is translated into a number of aims which underpins all the activity that takes place at Ben’s. These aims are: –
1. To continue to provide a safe, accessible drop in service that is appropriately staffed with trained volunteers and paid workers.
2. To provide a range of basic provision that addresses individuals needs including nutritious food, clean clothes and access to personal hygiene facilities.
3. To build a foundation of trust with hard to reach individuals
4. To provide brief interventions to address physical, social and economic issues in individuals lives.
5. To provide information, support and access to external services that are available to individuals.
6. To provide opportunities for individuals to explore areas of interest and enhance and develop skills that will enable them to make changes in their lives.
7. Having invested with dignity in individuals lives, we hope to rehabilitate them into the community and enable them to take ownership for their own lives.
Ben’s Centre prides itself on being focused on the needs of its clients, promoting an environment where clients feel that their voice is important and is listened to. Ben’s accepts individuals where they are at and does not make judgements about them or their personal circumstances.
History of Ben’s Centre
Ben’s Centre has grown out of a desire within the city for day provision for street drinkers and a commitment from a small group of street drinkers to address the issues they face. In the early 90’s a group of street drinkers started meeting regularly as a self-help group to provide mutual support to each other. With the support of a number of individuals they were able to persuade the city council to provide premises for them on Norfolk Row. This became, in 1992, the base for Hexagon, which provided day and counseling services to those in the city who had alcohol misuse problems including street drinkers.
In 1994 the Town Hall saw a new recruit when PC Ian Sherman (“Ben”) became the Town Hall bobby with responsibility for policing the Peace Gardens, which at the time, was a regular haunt of the city’s street drinkers. Recognising the futility of locking the street drinkers up on a regular basis Ben’s approach was more tactful and Ben built a positive working relationship with the street drinkers.
Having worked with Hexagon and seeing the impact the closure that that project had on the street drinkers and recognising their wider needs, Ben and colleagues looked at opening the premises that Hexagon had occupied on Norfolk Row as a project for the street drinkers. With the support of the city council and the TSB, support and donations from a range of organisations, and an army of volunteers Ben’s Place was opened in early 1996 providing food, warmth and shelter to the city’s street drinkers during the day.
The street drinkers named the project ‘Ben’s Place’ which developed in to its official title of Ben’s Centre for Vulnerable People (Sheffield.)
Ben’s Centre has had a challenging history trying to secure long term funding and accommodation for the project. Jumping forward some what, in 2005 we secured a three year grant from the Big Lottery (our first lottery grant), enabling the organisation to develop its services for street drinkers. This with funding from Henry Smith Charitable Trust, J. Paul Getty Jr Charitable Trust, The Tudor Trust and a Revenue grant from Sheffield City Council has enabled a more settled period in our history over the last 3 years. However grants are usually for a fixed term and quickly come to an end and so the battle to fund Ben’s continues.
In 2006 we had to relocate the centre once more, EMCO of Leeds enabled us to move to Orange Street in Sheffield. At last we had managed to secure premises within the city centre, that could have been purpose built for us. Our previous premises had been up two flights of stairs and here we were introduced to the luxury of ground floor accommodation (However did we ever manage the previous place, with all those stairs and clients who were intoxicated? Never mind how many trips staff and volunteers took to carry in all the groceries for the week). Orange Street has really been a blessing to us all. I’m sure one day we’ll write in the blog just what a David and Goliath battle it was to actually move us and how close it seamed we came to not moving and being homeless ourselves as an organisation.
One of the key strengths of the service that Ben’s delivers is the support the project has from the people who use it and the commitment the staff, volunteers and management committee have demonstrated in involving them in the running and development of the project.
Remember Ben, the police officer, well Ben is retired from the force now but he still remains at Ben’s Centre as one of our Trustee’s.