The incredible Sheffield social enterprise that is helping vulnerable adults to change their lives
Many who have experienced homelessness say the worst part of a life on the streets is feeling they are “invisible”.
This is an insidious, and pervasive, problem for those who find themselves sleeping rough, and it often contributes towards a sense of feeling alienated from society.
Sheffield social enterprise Printed By us (PBU), which falls under the umbrella of homelessness charity The Archer Project, not only ensures that its service users are genuinely seen and supported; but it also provides them with employment opportunities and the skills to create something of value, both to them and to consumers.
Founded in 2016, PBU is a screen printing business that has worked with many of Sheffield’s most prominent designers and artists including Pete McKee and Kid Acne, with whom they currently have a collaboration.
They opened a shop at Meadowhall in December 2020, and are hoping to share the PBU model with similar organisations based in major cities across the UK, something they have already achieved with St. George’s Crypt in Leeds.
Head of Social Enterprise at PBU, Terry Murphy, explains how the process of creating a print or a garment of clothing that members of the public value, and are prepared to pay money for, is something incredibly “special,” especially for those who have felt ignored for so long.
"It’s something very tangible, you see very clearly what your efforts on something you’ve spent hours on producing, to get everything prepared, are worth. The idea that you can create something and then show it at a local market or at our shop in Meadowhall, and a member of the public will happily, willingly, spend some of their hard-earned money on something you have created because they see the value of what you’ve produced, there’s something very special in that,” he said.
The idea for PBU was conceived by Mark Musgrave of Yoomee, a digital agency in Sheffield who aim to use digital technology for social good.
He then began developing the idea further with Terry, and Printed By us was born with the tagline: “printing positive change”
“Printed By us is a collaboration between the creative sector in Sheffield who we have commissioned to produce designs for us and who deliver screen printing workshops for us,” said Terry.
It is connected to Just Works, which is another arm of the Archer Project’s social enterprise wing, through which service users are connected to jobs in areas such as cleaning.
An integral aspect of what the Archer Project, which is based at Sheffield Cathedral, attempts to do is to foster a sense of family and community, as they support people to get back on their feet.
Terry explained how service users can find it quite jarring to go from supportive conditions where their background and individual set of needs are understood and cared for to a traditional work environment in which employees are expected to fit a mould.
Those involved with Printed By us and Just Works hopes that by “bridging the gap” between support and employment, they are cultivating the type of work environment and culture that empowers vulnerable people to flourish.
"The essence of the programme is recognising the way our work with supporting people and the world of work are traditionally treated as separate entities and we wanted to bridge that gap by creating supported employment opportunities.”
“Through the enterprises that we have developed for individuals to work, all of the profits are renivested back to the charities to fund the support of those individuals,” explained Terry, adding: "It’s all about how we can work with the people we support to move towards more stable and fulfilling lives.”
An integral part of the strategy is to “offer holistic, individually-tailored programme that tackles both personal development and employability themes, in tandem.”
Commenting on why they chose screen printing, Terry said: "It’s a very analogue process, it’s a craft. It’s a traditional craft and skill and also requires a lot of attention to detail and requires resillience and patience – all of the fundamental skills we look to build.”
The statistics speak for themselves. Data up to February 2021 from the Government’s comparable Work and Health programme, which seeks to help people including those who have or are experiencing homelessness, to find and keep a job, show that of all the individuals who have started the programme so far, 18 per cent have achieved a job outcome.
The most recent data from Just Works (JW) shows that 93 per cent of service users have found a job, and a further 78 per cent have successfully retained employment.
While PBU primarily works with individuals who are part of the Archer Project, they also support people in supported housing; alcohol and drug support services and agencies that support survivors of human trafficking and domestic abuse.
Terry says that many of the people they work with have experienced trauma, and childhood trauma in particular, learning difficulties or mental health.
He says it is important to understand that “homelessness is something that people experience, it is not who they are.”
Empathy is key, and while Terry found he had a “natural empathy” for service users; he has also experienced what he describes as a “mental health crisis” himself stemming from trauma, which places him in good stead to understand the challenges faced by many he supports.
Prior to coming on board with the Archer Project, Essex-born Terry ran a backpackers’ hostel in Brazil which had to close it because of the global financial crisis. From there, he worked at the London 2012 Olympics, on the management team for the athlete’s Village.
He was brought to Sheffield to help care for his partner’s terminally ill father, and subsequently found himself in the midst of a dark period.
Terry managed to get through it, and the experience led to him re-evaluating his life and what he wanted to do with it.
"Initially having gone down a corporate route, and reevaluating and not feeling like I was helping or had any purpose, I explored opportunities; and found through volunteering with the Archer Project that I seem to have a natural empathy for the people I have been working with.
"That allowed me to build solid connections and it felt like pursuing a career in this area was something I could do that would affect genuine social change and make a difference in people’s lives.”
"What I hope now is that by developing social enterprises that provide sustainable employment that can be replicated in other areas in the country in the way we’re supporting,” he said.
Terry has also volunteered for the Citizens Advice Bureau in Sheffield, and when he initially went for a job at the Archer Project he was unsuccessful due to a lack of experience.
He dusted himself off, began volunteering for the Archer Project and when a similar job came up the following year in 2015, he got it.
Since then, Terry has worked his way up to being Head of Social Enterprise and says working through his challenging experiences and traumas have made him resillient and shaped who he is.
"Although people say the work we do must be rewarding, it’s taken me from a really dark place in my life to a point where I get up every morning where I feel proud of what I do. I do still struggle some days. I get as much out of it as the people I support. It’s not altruistic, because I get something out of it too,” he said.
Terry is just one of several people whose lives have been transformed for the better by being involved with the AP, and its associated social enterprises.
Another such individual is James Creed, who, after years of struggling with addiction issues and sleeping rough, began engaging with the AP and its 12-step programme.
Four months later Just Works was created, and Printed By us was piloted, and James was there for the latter’s first screen printing workshop.
Since then, James has continued to be a key part of Printed By us, running workshops, teaching others this new skill, packing orders and running stalls.
In January 2019 he was promoted to Operations Manager and was later voted The Star’s Small Business Personality of the Year 2019. His personal life has also continued to blossom, after finding accommodation and meeting his current partner, the pair went on to have triplet boys and are enjoying their life together.
Chris Lynam is another success story who became involved with the service after his life was sent on a downward spiral after experiencing childhood trauma, and spent years using drink and drugs as a coping mechanism, while sleeping rough.
He describes being “hopelessly lost for over a decade to my mental health and addictions.”
"Loss of family support and my graduation to injecting my drugs and the psychosis it induced, found me sleeping rough and eating from bins, culminating in committing crimes to feed my addiction and ultimately prison,” he said.
Chris describes prison as a jarring, chaotic and frightening experience, but eventually formed a relationship with a prison chaplain, a consequence of which was Chris coming to the realisation he did not want to punish himself anymore.
"To that end I began to slowly change and to use my time to heal my broken body and soothe my damaged mind,” he explained.
Chris was discharged from prison with just £40, and began engaging with the AP after he was referred to them to try and find him some temporary accomodation. He was soon referred to Just Works, and after showing a keen interest in the written word and creativity he began working with PBU.
Terry guided him towards a creative writing group; and not only is Chris still working for PBU but he also writes a blog for South Yorkshire Police through which he attempts to give an offender's perspective on criminal justice and he attracts thousands of readers to his Facebook page, Words from the shed, where he shares his poems and short stories.
The pandemic hit the AP and its associated social enterprises hard, but the PBU’s online shop as well as their unit at Meadowhall, which opened in December 2020, has continued to bring in revenue and grow the brand.
They are currently hoping to conclude a deal with British Land to continue their lease subject to concessions to be agreed including business rates relief with Sheffield City Council, with whom they are currently in talks with.
Moving forward, Printed By us hopes to share their model with other, similar organisations in Sheffield and to work with artists including Pete McKee again in the future.
For more information please visit: https://www.printedbyus.org/