Sheffield street drinkers lose safe haven

Ben's Centre's former base on Orange Street, Sheffield
Ben's Centre's former base on Orange Street, Sheffield
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A day centre for vulnerable street drinkers in Sheffield has had to close its doors while volunteers and staff work around the clock to find new premises.

Ben’s Centre is a charity set up 19 years ago to offer a drop-in centre for street drinkers, many of whom are homeless.

Staff and volunteers were forced to find new premises when plans were approved for their base on Orange Street, off West Street, which they have occupied for the last eight years, to be turned into student flats.

A new base was found on Cumberland Street but the firm which holds the freehold objected to a day centre operating there just hours before the charity was due to move in.

A temporary office has been found on Brown Street, but it cannot be used as a day centre.

Sue Smith, Ben’s Centre manager, said workers and volunteers would pound the streets looking for their regular clients and others in need of support.

“We are absolutely committed to ensuring that the project continues so we will all do outreach work on the streets until we can find a permanent base,” she said.

“We won’t be able to offer the same services as we have in the past but we will try our hardest because we are determined not to let this situation undo all the good work that has been done over the years.

“We see about 150 individuals a year, 40 to 50 on a regular basis, and we will do everything we possibly can to still support them until we can find new premises.”

Sheffield Paul Blomfield said: “Ben’s Centre is a charity I know well and it’s very disappointing to see them put in this situation. Excluding the charity from these premises is excluding some of the most vulnerable people in our city from receiving the support and help they need.”