A charity helping Sheffield’s homeless rebuild their lives is using art to inspire them to take the next step.
Last year Sheffield Council was contacted by 1,143 families and individuals pleading for help with homelessness.
And according to the charity Crisis, which helps the homeless and those at risk of losing the roof over their head, 2,714 slept rough in England on any one night during 2014 – up 55 per cent on 2010.
Last year the charity helped more than 800 people in South Yorkshire with support, advice and help into education and employment to bring some stability to their lives to either help them secure accommodation or retain their homes.
But in addition to more mainstream support, including grants, one-to-one support, help getting into education and employment, Crisis is also using art to help vulnerable members of society and this month has been showcasing the work clients have produced.
Using painting, poetry, creative writing, photography, jewellery making, dance, music and performing arts as a way of initially engaging with people on the streets, sofa surfing, in hostels or at risk of losing their homes, Crisis uses the free sessions to inspire people to aspire again.
The charity wants the sessions to give people something to look forward to again and to allow them to develop new skills or rediscover their love of art.
The sessions allow homeless people to mix with others in a safe, dry place and for some their artwork can be therapy.
This month work produced during outreach sessions across the county has been displayed in an exhibition at the Theatre Delicatessen on The Moor in Sheffield city centre, where activity sessions have been held.
There was also an open mic and performance evening last week giving people the chance to sing, play musical instruments, recite poetry and act.
Dominic O’Gorman, aged 51, who was homeless for two years, displayed his artwork and created paintings while members of the public observed him in full flow during the Art in Crisis festival.
He now has a flat in Sheffield after two years on the streets and hopes to eventually come off benefits and sell his artwork as a career.
Some of his paintings sold last week.
He also hopes to be used by Crisis as an art tutor.
“When you are homeless you have no direction, you can’t think more than 10 minutes ahead because you never know where you are going to be or what will have happened to you,” he said.
“So the sessions offered by Crisis are important as they give people something to look forward to.
“When you are on the streets there is no rule book, you just learn as you go along, so for opportunities like art classes to be available is fantastic. There are no materials for art when you live on the streets so you can’t express your creativity. Crisis is now giving people the opportunity.”
Just a couple of years ago Scott Beachell, aged 41, was a qualified painter and decorator with a home and a daughter he had brought up for 10 years.
But a night out one weekend destroyed all that when a drink and drug binge landed him in hospital in a coma.
Eight and a half months later he was discharged from hospital to find he had lost his home, his long-term partner and responsibility for his daughter.
With nowhere to stay he spent months ‘sofa surfing’ f until he landed a place in a Sheffield hostel, where he found out about Crisis and enrolled on a creative writing course. His dream is to become a full-time published comic writer.
He said: “I enjoy the creative writing and support you get but I would like to write full time and get my life back on track. I would never have thought that possible if I had not started the course.”
Kellie Gamble, arts co-ordinator for Crisis in South Yorkshire, said classes, courses and advice are available in hostels, day centres and colleges .
She said: “Like the rest of the country homelessness is on the rise in South Yorkshire. Homelessness is more than rough sleepers. There are a lot of homeless people who are invisible – staying with friends, sofa surfing and squatting.
“We focus on providing educational and personal development services and art is one of the ways in which we engage with and support people.”