Changing lives - one voucher at a time. Client stories.

Each year we work with over 80 rough sleepers and some are receptive to working intensively with us. this is one story of one of our clients.

Ernest graduated in Environmental Science in his native Poland, before moving to Sheffield to work in the City. Ernest lived in Sheffield for nine years, with a regular job and staying in his own accommodation. He describes a normal life, working, seeing friends, and with various interests including collecting stamps and coins. However following an injury he lost his job, and then his home, and for three years he had been sleeping rough, during which time he had been assaulted and had also been hit by a car, fracturing his shoulder.

Ernest survived by begging on the streets, but his life turned around when a passer-by, instead of offering money, gave Ernest a voucher for St Wilfrid’s Centre entitling him to a shower, a hot meal and some warm clothes. It took Ernest several weeks to build up the confidence to come to the Centre, but on his first visit he was welcomed by Agnes, one of the Centre’s welfare workers, who is herself Polish.

Over the following weeks Agnes worked closely with Ernest. St Wilfrid’s offers a range of support services but these services are only effective if an individual is committed to turning their life around. With Ernest, the first critical step was for him to commit to not drinking when he visited the Centre. Once this had been achieved, Ernest became fully engaged with St Wilfrid’s support programme and, with Agnes’s help, Ernest was able to find both work and secure accommodation. As Ernest says, “My life is back to normal now, I have somewhere to sleep, a phone, and a job. I found St Wilfrid’s extremely helpful, not only giving me practical support, but also supporting me emotionally and mentally. I feel very comfortable here, which is important to me.” 

When Ernest was begging on the streets, he was often given foreign coins. He has kept these, and now they are not only a part of his coin collecting hobby, but they are also a reminder of the difficult times over the last few years and the progress he has made putting his life back on track.

The kind of misfortunes that resulted in Ernest becoming homeless are becoming an increasingly common experience in Sheffield. The latest government statistics show that the number of people sleeping rough in the Yorkshire region increased by 19% over the last twelve months. This mirrors the direct experience of St Wilfrid’s who have seen a 22% increase in self referrals (including rough sleepers) over the last year.

St Wilfrid’s vouchers enable people living rough to access a shower, a hot meal and warm clothes. If you would like some vouchers to distribute please call the Centre on 0114 255 5720 or email

Madeleine Thomas