THE FIRST phase of work on a shelter which will provide a lifeline for 52 homeless and vulnerable people in Sheffield is set to start next summer.
Charity St Wilfrid’s Centre, which found fame when it appeared on Channel 4’s The Secret Millionaire, has raised £1.4m needed to extend its current day services with a residential centre following a two-year fundraising drive.
The centre will provide a roof over the head of some of the city’s neediest people for up to two years, helping them rebuild their lives through education courses and employment in its workshops manufacturing signs and football merchandise.
Planning permission for the Queens Road development, which would sit next to the existing centre, has already received the go-ahead but a decision on some amendments to is currently awaiting approval from Sheffield Council.
Director Kevin Bradley said the need for the shelter was “greater than ever” as residents struggle to cope with benefit cuts and welfare reform.
He said: “Everybody thought I was crackers at first, and I still can’t believe that we’ve raised this huge amount myself sometimes. The support has been amazing.
“I think Sheffield needs this now even more than it did when I set out these plans two years ago.
“I’ve always said one of the biggest causes of homelessness is mental health issues.
“The people we see, they wait for somewhere and they last about three weeks. They’re on the 13th floor of some building, isolated, and they can’t cope. For some, their social network is out on the street and they’d rather be there.
“I couldn’t go on doing nothing about it, so our centre will try and address that by getting residents into our workshops, get them working and interacting again.”
The total cost of the build is £1.8m, but contractors are set to get started on the first 20 self-contained apartments in June next year now the bulk of the cash has been raised.
St Wilfrid’s success has won plaudits from national charity Path to Success and its supporters include Sheffield MPs David Blunkett and Paul Blomfield.
Simrin Choudhrie, an interior designer and wife of a former Asian Entrepreneur of the Year, donated £1.8million to the centre after going undercover as an impoverished mum-to-be for the Channel 4 series in 2011 and has been a patron ever since.