A grand opening has been held to celebrate the completion of renovation work on a Sheffield day centre for homeless street drinkers.
Ben’s Centre for Vulnerable People spent two years planning and refurbishing the facilities at their Grade II listed building on North Church Street in the city centre.
Each year, the charity helps over 190 homeless people with issues including alcohol and drug addiction, homelessness and health problems.
They serve over 2,500 hot meals and require a purpose-built kitchen and wash facilities.
The refit included a complete replacement of the existing kitchen, with the installation of cooking and extraction facilities, adding two new toilets and a shower, and refurbishing the stairs.
Several firms have given their time and expertise free of charge to ensure the work is completed and Ben’s Centre can continue supporting Sheffield’s most vulnerable homeless.
CRASH, the construction industry charity, has provided essential funding and sourced building materials to ensure the work can be undertaken.
Sheffield-based Nathan Oliver of Ikonografik Design has lead the project on a pro-bono basis, ensuring the design and building works were suitable and also gained relevant permissions.
The project encountered significant setbacks in gaining both planning and listed building consent – with ductwork issues almost putting a halt to the work.
Building contractor Goldwing Developments, which has previously been involved in several listed building projects across Sheffield, carried out the construction work.
CRASH patron company Imtech provided a building services engineer and helped source a large ventilation extract system for free, significantly reducing the cost of the project.
Howdens Joinery has supplied the kitchen free of charge.
Decorative murals will be painted by several local artists, including Jonathan Wilkinson, Ricky Wilson and Coliqui.
“Without the free support offered by those involved, Ben’s Centre faced severe restrictions on its services,” said Sue Smith, project manager.
“We are hugely grateful to CRASH, Nathan at Ikonografik, Goldwing Developments, Howdens and Imtech for helping us install a first-class kitchen facility.
“We were forced to relocate to the new building on North Church Street in 2015 and have been working to improve the kitchen and wash facilities since then.
“Due to complications with planning permission and listed building consent, we have faced significant delays, which has severely limited the services we have been able to offer to Sheffield’s most vulnerable homeless people – chronic street drinkers.
“The previous kitchenette was not fit for purpose. It was cramped and had nowhere to cook and no ventilation.
“Despite the difficulties, we’re pleased to say the new kitchen is almost complete, ready for its official opening, and we can continue offering our unique services in Sheffield.”
Ben’s Centre was first opened in 1996 – originally known as Ben’s Place – by former police officer Ian ‘Ben’ Sherman.
In 1994, Ben was responsible for policing the Town Hall area of the city centre, including the Peace Gardens, which was a regular haunt for the city’s street drinkers at the time.
Instead of locking them up, Ben wanted to take a different approach, providing food, warmth and shelter during the day.
The charity has since provided a sanctuary for thousands of homeless people, helping them address their alcohol dependency and enabling them to turn their lives around, through advice, life skills training, health clinics and the use of IT.
Sue added: “For the last two years, we have been operating without being able to cook meals on site or offer showering facilities.
“Now the work is complete, we can offer a fully integrated service again, which will help thousands more vulnerable homeless people in future.”
Ben’s Centre is a day centre in Sheffield that supports some of the city’s most vulnerable homeless people. Further info: http://www.benscentre.org/