The winter months have brought mixed blessings to SIFA Fireside.
On the one hand, it was a time of great goodwill as we had a heart warming response to our Christmas Appeal, which raised £14,000 towards the cost of the fuel bills at our Day Centre. This has helped us to ‘keep cooking this winter’ – providing hot meals to over 120 people each weekday, hot drinks at weekends and a warm daily ‘drop In’ session where Birmingham’s homeless and vulnerably-housed adults could receive emergency and ongoing support services. A huge THANK YOU to the individuals, families, workplace teams, businesses, schools and faith groups who went out of their way to help us with donations of money, food, sleeping bags, warm clothes and time.
On the other hand, it was a time of anxious waiting for the outcome of budget decisions by Birmingham City Council (our main source of statutory funding) as it grappled with the need to make funding cuts. Over the summer we heard that the city-wide contract for Drug & Alcohol services had been awarded to a new provider, national charity CRI, rather than to a Consortium of local agencies which included SIFA Fireside, and the loss of this significant funding stream means that from March 2015, SIFA Fireside will no longer be funded to deliver alcohol recovery work. This in turn threw doubt on our capacity to run our daily ‘drop in’ service.
We acted quickly to highlight the implications for our clients to Birmingham City Council’s Officers and elected Councillors, and on 30th December we finally heard that we have secured funding that enables us to continue with a weekday ‘drop in’ service for another year, although at a reduced level, so we can support the health and wellbeing of some of the most disadvantaged adults in Birmingham, most with multiple and complex needs.
While we are pleased that SIFA Fireside’s services have been recognised as a valuable part of Public Health provision in the city, and our weekday ‘drop in’ service is secure for another year, we are disappointed that, due to reduced funding, we are losing a number of staff and management posts which means we are no longer able to run ‘drop in’ sessions at weekends, and our last weekend ‘drop In’ will be on Saturday 28th February. As a result our weekend volunteers have started an appeal, Birmingham Teapot, to raise the money needed to reopen. (Please see www.justgiving.com/sharon-baker11 )
We are reviewing our staffing structure and roles to see how we can best use the skilled and dedicated team that is the backbone of SIFA Fireside and who have shown their commitment through difficult and uncertain times. We will also continue to work hard in 2015 to secure funding from charitable trusts, corporate sponsors and fundraising activities to ensure that Birmingham’s vulnerable and marginalised adults have a safe place to go for support and help to achieve a more stable and healthier lifestyle.
We need your help more than ever – in whatever way you can. We need: your donations of money for fuel and rent; your gifts of food and sleeping bags for our clients; your sponsorship for our training and educational activities; your ideas and energy to run fundraising events; and your time to volunteer with us. Your support was wonderful this winter. Please help us in any way you can in the challenging year that lies ahead.