Charities and other agencies in Sheffield are being stretched to the limits by the growing cost of living crisis, attendees at a Church Action on Poverty pilgrimage and conference in the city have been told.
Political, religious and community leaders were among those attending the event, staged to mark the 40th anniversary of the founding of the national ecumenical Christian social justice charity Church Action on Poverty (CAP), which is supported by the Hallam Diocese.
They heard that one centre run by a charity that helps local people to overcome seemingly insurmountable debt problems says it cannot take on any new clients until after Christmas because its six debt counsellors are fully committed until then.
Meanwhile, a food bank in one of Sheffield’s poorest areas, Burngreave, says demand has “gone through the roof” and is now double pre-Covid levels.
At the same time, an organisation that provides a safe space and accommodation for people who are trying to turn their lives around after suffering problems with addiction and other issues says it is full to capacity.
Ruth Moore, head of St Wilfrid’s Centre for the homeless, vulnerable and socially excluded, told the CAP conference following the pilgrimage, that mental health problems affected many of those on the fringes of society and this was made worse by fear about the future.
“We are seeing an increase in need, but, for us, it centres on the fear of what might happen,” said Ruth.
“Our concern at St Wilfrid’s at the minute is the impact on mental health on a whole range of people the uncertainty and the insecurity and I think we have all felt a bit of that.”
Trish Watts from Burngreave Food Bank, based at the Rock Christian Centre on Spital Hill, told pilgrimage attendees the organisation had provided food for more than 33,000 people during the last ten years – enough people to fill Sheffield Arena three times over.
“Demand is double what it was pre-Covid. Since September it has gone through the roof,” said Trish.
Kevin Day, from Christians Against Poverty – a charity that is not linked to Church Action on Poverty, although the two organisations share the same initials – said the organisation’s newest debt advice operation had gained 17 clients since it launched a few months ago.
Meanwhile, an older second operation was at full capacity until after Christmas.
Charley Fedorenko, deputy manager of the Emmaus Charity’s Sheffield operation, warned of increasing problems facing people nearing retirement age who were trying to turn their lives around after suffering problems with addiction or other issues.
Emmaus, based close to the Victoria Quays canal basin in Sheffield, provides a safe space and accommodation for up to 18 people and operates as a second hand furniture store where residents work in the shop, on the tills, collecting and delivering furniture, repairing it and creating new items of furnishing.
People taking part in the Pilgrimage also visited St Catherine’s Church, Burngreave, where parish priest, Fr Fr Albert Savaille told them appreciating the needs of different cultures and sharing knowledge and talents are the key to avoiding becoming overwhelmed by ever increasing need in Burngreave.
Fr Albert explained that the church’s congregation was drawn from among 35 different ethnic groups and included an active Union of Catholic Mothers and St Vincent de Paul Society, providing support for the isolated and lonely.
“The need for our help is growing, and growing,” said Fr Albert. “We can spread our talents and gifts.
We know of places where we can signpost people for help and we need to share that knowledge so that one group is not overwhelmed.”