Sheffield support network Ben’s Centre helps over 15,000 people in 21 years

Volunteers with a cake they have baked for clients at Ben's Centre, Sheffield.
Volunteers with a cake they have baked for clients at Ben's Centre, Sheffield.
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Twenty one years ago, Ian ‘Ben’ Sherman opened the doors of his centre, offering support for the city’s street drinkers.

He was then working as a police officer and opened Ben’s Centre for Vulnerable People in Sheffield after realising that taking street drinkers for a night in the cells was not the way to help them tackle their problem - and instead decided to offer them a place to stay.

A client enjoys a meal at Ben's Centre, Sheffield.

A client enjoys a meal at Ben's Centre, Sheffield.

With the support of the council and donations from a range of organisations and an army of volunteers, the centre was opened in early 1996.

It provided food, warmth and shelter to Sheffield’s street drinkers during the day.

Today Ian continues his work, alongside a loyal group of trustees and volunteers, to help vulnerable adults in Sheffield city centre.

To date, they have helped over 15,000 people.

Volunteers complete a run to raise funds for Ben's Centre, Sheffield.

Volunteers complete a run to raise funds for Ben's Centre, Sheffield.

Writing on his online blog, he said: “The current situation for our clients at Ben’s Centre is as challenging as ever.

“The work we are being asked to do is now very different in many ways from when Ben’s started 21 years ago, although sadly many of the circumstances are still exactly the same.

“Sheffield is one of the better cities at tackling social issues, and the services in Sheffield are overall very good.

“That said, we as a society still have a long way to go and it is pleasing to know that the wider community in Sheffield are still willing to get involved and do their bit.”

Volunteers at Ben's Centre, Sheffield

Volunteers at Ben's Centre, Sheffield

Ben’s Centre is unique among support agencies in the city as volunteers will work with clients when they are under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

They provide help, advice, food and clothing, and also help people to access other services they may find useful in Sheffield and also rehabs elsewhere in the country.

Since May 2015, the centre has been based at 15 North Church Street.

To celebrate its milestone year, the centre is to put on an exhibition at Weston Park Museum.

John Shuttleworth promotiing Ben's Centre, Sheffield.

John Shuttleworth promotiing Ben's Centre, Sheffield.

A number of artists have also designed murals to paint on the walls of the centre as part of a birthday makeover to give it a new lease of life.

John Shuttleworth will be cutting the ribbon on the exhibition at Weston Park Museum, Western Bank, at 2pm on Monday, October 16.

There will be light refreshments on offer and people will have a chance to talk to staff and volunteers at Ben’s Centre about their experiences over the last 21 years.

Sue Smith, project manager at Ben’s Centre, said: “Twenty one years for a small charity is a major achievement. Being part of the service makes me proud. Over the years we have helped 15,000 individuals - that’s quite a feat.”

Ben’s Centre volunteers are out and about on the city streets four days a week, offering support to some of the most vulnerable people in the city.

As well as going to talk to people out and about, the volunteers also cook meals for the needy.

In an average year, the charity provides a total of 4,488 hot meals to their clients.

It costs them roughly £1 per meal, and donations are always welcome from the public to help with this cost.

Senior practitioner Daryl Bishop, who has been working at the centre for almost six years, said that the ethos of Ben’s centre - ‘a place of sanctuary for the vulnerable’ - is very important.

He said: “I came from working in a residential rehab centre that supported clients with alcohol addiction.

“Ben’s Centre was the natural progression for me and I have found a lot of satisfaction in this role.

“We often work with clients who have been bounced around in the system for a long time and cannot seem to get a grip on their own lives.

“Ben’s Centre helps them to take stock and work towards a brighter future in a supportive and non-judgemental environment; our clients have multiple issues and these are often misunderstood or ignored as the face they present is often anti-social and abrasive.

“We are able to build trust with our clients and have genuine relationships with them; the ethos at Ben’s Centre encourages this mutual trust and therefore we are able to make a real difference while keeping personal boundaries in place.”

If you see some one who looks like they might be in need of some support you can call the team on 07771897086 for assistance. Where possible, they help people on the same day.

If you can donate some money to help Ben’s Centre continue their work, visit www.localgiving.org/charity/benscentre site to donate directly.

Ben’s Centre, at North Church Street, is open every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

For more information, visit www.benscentre.org