Despite us being a long-standing and award-winning charity the challenging economic climate has forced us to cut down the number of meals we are able to provide to the homeless community from the near 40,000 of last year to half this figure in 2014.
The news is a devastating blow to us. We work with people who are homeless, affected by alcohol, or otherwise socially excluded, to improve their physical, social and mental wellbeing. Our key service is a daily Drop-In that welcomes homeless clients for breakfast and lunch, whilst giving them a chance to see medical staff and also pick up clean clothes and sleeping bags. In 2012/13, SIFA Fireside had over 29,000 drop-in attendances, proving that it is a much-needed service within Birmingham.
However, challenging economic times and reduced funding means that we have to cut down provisions to just one meal per day, which will affect hundreds of homeless people across the city.
“It costs a lot of money just to open our doors and, unfortunately, we no longer have the funds to be able to continue at such a cost,” said SIFA Fireside CEO, Cath Gilliver.
“SIFA Fireside provides a vital lifeline for Birmingham’s homeless people, particularly over the winter months, and we rely on the support of local people and businesses to open our doors seven days a week. We recently made an appeal for food, as supplies were low, and we have been overwhelmed by the donations that came in. We’re extremely grateful for this support from the community, and to Birmingham City Council who fund the majority of our staff posts, but the stark reality is that a lack of financial donations means we have to cut down by half the number of meals we can offer the city’s homeless,” she continued.
SIFA Fireside has recently launched a Christmas Appeal, asking people to text and donate either £5 or £10 to help the charity provide its vital services. £5 can help buy a hot meal for four people, tea for 100 people every day for a week or five woolly hats for rough sleepers. Likewise, £10 could buy 26 tins of soup, ingredients for the weekly cookery lesson, or 20 bottles of shampoo. People can donate by texting ‘SIFA05 £5’ or ‘SIFA05 £10’ to 70070.
As you may be aware we have gone through some challenging times of late; suffering a devastating flood just a few months ago. However, despite the damage we only closed our doors for one day and now have a brand new floor in place. The decision to cut the meal provision down hasn’t been taken lightly and we have already broken the upsetting news to the charity’s elected Client Committee to consult with them on how this will affect the homeless community, and also ask them to spread the word.
We have seen an influx of food, clothing and sleeping bags from Harvest Festival collections, Diwali and Christmas donations over the last few weeks, all of which will continue to be used throughout 2014. However, we are now calling for local businesses and the wider Birmingham community to donate money to help keep the service going and providing the much-needed meals. Food is a very important element to SIFA Fireside, not just to keep clients healthy but to give staff the opportunity to help them with accommodation and other problems, so they can get people off the streets and into settled accommodation and a more stable lifestyle.