Covid-19: Homeless charity prepares for big fundraising night

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Sifa Fireside is gearing up for a drive to raise £50,000 to continue supporting vulnerably housed and homeless in Birmingham.

Tomorrow night is Sifa Fireside’s emergency appeal, Big Brummie Campout. Over 250 families have already signed up to sleep out overnight – in their gardens or living room – to raise the much-needed cash.

The coronavirus outbreak forced the charity to suspend its drop-in centre service – which regularly helped around 160 people on a daily basis.

Volunteer manager Melissa Roche told Birmingham Eastside they had to adapt quickly: “We had to provide our clients Nokia phones, this way we can still stay in contact with them. Our skeleton staff call the clients daily so that they are still receiving the support they need.”

Last year official records showed that there were 319 people sleeping rough in the West Midlands. Birmingham was in the top ten local authorities with the highest number of people – 52.

Melissa said “Our aim is to put our clients first. We do this by providing them food, increasing their life skills, making sure that they are socially involved and reducing homelessness.”

The campout will also keep campers entertained with a whole evening of live streamed activities and quizzes on its Facebook page, including a comedy hour with Birmingham’s own star Barbara Nice.

Top comedian and Kings Heathen, Joe Lycett, also lent his support wearing a pig-faced tweet to his 785,000 followers.

Sifa Fireside’s services complement Birmingham City Council’s Streetlink service, where local people can report a rough sleeper, so that they can be directed to support.

Sharon Thompson is Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet Member for Homes and Neighbourhoods, and Chair of the WMCA Homelessness Taskforce Members Advisory Group.

She said: “People who sleep rough face a whole range of physical and mental health challenges, and as a consequence are even more vulnerable with the Coronavirus spreading.”

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