A COMMUNITY campaign has raised enough cash to allow a Birmingham Irish charity to reinstate the weekend homeless service it was forced to axe earlier this year.
Following the “difficult decision” to close its weekend drop-in sessions in March 2015, due to “devastating” council funding cuts, the SIFA Fireside charity will bring them back this month.
The turnaround comes after volunteers and local businesses rallied to raise funds to keep the daily drop-in centre open on Saturdays and Sundays – when some of the charity’s most vulnerable clients come to the Digbeth centre to find shelter, sustenance and a hot shower.
“We are delighted to announce that our weekend service is resuming on May 16,” SIFA Fireside’s CEO Cath Gilliver said today.
“Following the difficult decision to end the weekend service for financial reasons in March 2015 our weekend volunteers took action,” she added, “they were determined to get the weekend service back to ensure that Birmingham’s homeless people had somewhere to go for support, a shower and a cuppa.”
Sharon Baker, who led the Birmingham Teapot campaign group, explained: “Volunteering at SIFA Fireside’s weekend drop-in is as much a part of my life as it is for the guys who use it, and I felt so upset by the thought of it closing it spurred me into action with my fellow volunteers.”
Local institutions were quick to support the campaign - with nearby Bournville College holding a bake sale, the city’s Deutsche Bank branch hosting a dress-down day and Capita and the Michael Marsh Trust both adding to the funding pot.
An anonymous Birmingham business leader and a SIFA Fireside supporter in Yardley both made large donations to the cause, while £5,000 came from the Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co Charitable Trust.
When the total amount was totted up the charity found it had enough to reinstate the weekend drop-in service for the next 12 months – much to the delight of its clients.
Service user John said: “The recent Bank Holiday weekend was really tough as that was three days with nowhere to go and nothing to do.”
He added: “Today it’s raining and cold outside - many of us are sleeping on the street and SIFA Fireside supports us. We can have a wash and brush our teeth there, so it’s a rescue point. We can’t do without it.”
Ms Gilliver added: “SIFA Fireside provides a vital lifeline for Birmingham’s homeless people, and we rely on the support of local people and businesses. We want to thank everyone who donated, as well as the corporate and charitable trusts who supported the appeal, and we’re delighted that the weekend service is returning within such a short space of time.”
The charity serves more than 150 of the city’s most vulnerable people on a daily basis, 20 per cent of who are Irish.
Just 100 people pledging £5 a month to SIFA Fireside would fund 50 meals a day, along with 20 accommodation advice sessions for people in need during 2015, the charity explains.
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