During May this year, Channel 4’s Secret Millionaire TV programme visited The Cathedral Archer Project, along with two other Sheffield charities, Grace Tebbutt House and the Gleadless Valley Community Forum. The programme featured millionaire and former boss of the Priory rehabilitation clinics, Dr Chai Patel, who volunteered as a retired doctor with the charities.
He spent four days volunteering at the Archer Project, helping in their medical centre, in the kitchen and even going ice-skating with clients. Dr Patel later reflected on one of his favourite memories, “A young lady, with an extremely difficult life and huge loss of self-esteem, taught me not only how to skate, but also to trust her not to let me fall - which she didn't.”
This young lady was Vicky, who expressed her gratitude to Dr Patel, not only for the ice skates he bought her, but also for securing the job of Sam Pryor, the charity’s longest-serving project worker. “Sam keeps this place going,” said Vicky.
Dr Patel donated £15,000 to the Archer Project to help run their medical centre over the next three years and £30,000 to secure Sam Pryor’s position.
|A client eating breakfast at the Archer Project|
Tim Renshaw, Chief Executive of the Archer Project said, “We’re taking people off the streets and giving them alternative things to do with their time and alternative futures. So volunteering is a way of getting people to do things differently, seeing if we can change people’s life and expectations.”
Victims of their parents
Dr Patel also donated £25,000 to help Grace Tebbutt House, in Nether Edge. Grace Tebbutt provide temporary homes and support for Sheffield’s most vulnerable women, including ex-offenders.
In an interview after the film was made, Dr Patel reflected, “The most important realisation was how innocent young children become victims of their parents' condition and how they are brought into a way of life over which they have very little control, creating the potential for history to repeat itself.”
|Save Grace Tebbutt House|
However, Sheffield City Council’s executive, Richard Webb told The Sheffield Star that they would not reconsider. He said, “Good practice and research highlighted that large accommodation was not conducive to rehabilitation”.
Mrs Harris said that their charity offers a unique service, “Other services won’t accommodate women who are considered as medium or high risk, meaning that they have an uncontrollable drug or alcohol habit and may be verbally abusive to staff.” She said there are many more vulnerable women they could help, “we get enough referrals everyday that we could fill this hostel four times over.”
The Great British property scandal
by the Department of Communities and Local Government show that 35,680 households in the UK have been accepted as homeless by local authorities at the start of 2011. According to Shelter’s new data search there are 371 households accepted as homeless in South Yorkshire.
Ironically, even as homelessness figures increase, there are one million empty homes in the UK; of which 350,000 have been empty for more than six months. According to George Clarke, architect and TV presenter, “That’s the equivalent of a city the size of Leeds full of empty homes.”
George Clarke’s campaign The Great British Property Scandal, has gained over 100,000 signatures which means that the issue will now be debated in parliament.
The campaign proposes two changes that they hope will give individuals and communities the power to use empty houses:
1. A law change to give people the power to turn abandoned properties into homes for people who need them.
2. Access to low-cost loan funds for people who need financial help to get empty properties back into use.
Something to live for
Grace Tebbutt House and The Cathedral Archer Project say they could help a huge number of homeless people if they were able to turn abandoned properties into homes.
Vicky is now working in the kitchen at the Archer Project and has even started cooking her own meals for the clients. She is hoping to do an NVQ in Catering once she has finished her NVQ in Health and Social Care. “It has given me a goal to aim to, something to live for. I’ve not been in jail for two and half years, which is so unlike me as I was in and out of prison every other month. I’m now talking to my mum and am back in contact with my kids.”