Sheffield man's mission to help city's vulnerable
A Sheffield man has taken it upon himself to help the city's homeless and other vulnerable people.
Anthony Cunningham, aged 30, was fed up of seeing people sleeping rough and begging on Sheffield’s streets.
He wanted to raise awareness of the problems faced by those people, and find ways to help them. So Anthony decided it was time to make a difference.
He said: “To me, Sheffield is like a bit of a black hole. Unless something is pushed in your face you don’t really know about it.
“When Park Hill emptied and the market came down, people started to notice where the homeless were coming from. They were all getting pushed into student areas. People are now realising what Sheffield is like.”
Anthony grew up in the Park Hill area and says he is used to people from all backgrounds. But where he now lives, in Totley, the problems he is trying to solve are less visible.
“When I speak to people over here they have got no clue what the problems are,” he said.
“They see one or two articles in the paper and they think the whole world’s gone to pot.
“I was getting sick of how much people were on the street. A lot of these people are not homeless. You get down to the nitty-gritty – a lot are on drugs, or people who have been abused. People who fell through the cracks.
“I’m not taking anything away from the charities. But if they have been going for so long, how have these people not been helped?”
Anthony works alongside existing Sheffield homeless charities such as the Cathedral Archer Project, which he did not know about before he started. He spends much of his time talking to vulnerable people, either on the street or wherever they are staying, and trying to do something to help them.
He recently spent time with a woman with severe arthritis, who was at risk of becoming homeless.
Anthony said: “When I saw her, all her bones were breaking and rubbing together. She was getting no pain relief, no benefits. She was living in sheltered accommodation but no-one was checking on her.
“If you are working there, surely you should be coming to clean it up?”
Anthony is working to set up a retreat for people who find themselves in such situations, to give them a chance to get back on their feet. He has an online crowdfunding page, but to give his project an extra boost he has set up a fund and awareness-raising event.
Working with his friend Damian Davis, known as ‘King Kev’, who runs Caribbean Spice in London Road, Anthony will host Food Lovers at the Curzon theatre on May 21. For a £35 ticket, guests will get a night of food and entertainment. But they will also get a meal voucher for Caribbean Spice, which they are encouraged to give to a homeless person. People who live and have lived on the street will also be there to share their experiences.
“The event was an idea I saw in America,” said Anthony. “A guy had a pizza shop, and one guy came in and bought a slice for a homeless person. Then it got passed forward.
“I thought to myself I should give people a decent meal, a cooked meal. So I created Food Lovers. The person who buys the ticket not only gets to enjoy food and entertainment, but can meet people off the street and hear their stories.”
The event will also support the Mustard Seed project, which helps children and adults with disabilities in Jamaica.
To buy a ticket call Anthony on 07824 648585, or go to Sa-Kis in Division Street or Caribbean Spice in London Road. You can support Anthony’s project at crowdfunding.justgiving.com/the-peoples-charity.