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Home by the Fireside

17 December 2014

As most of us look forward to a chance to cosy up and relax with our families, hundreds of thousands of people in England have nowhere to celebrate and no-one to celebrate with.

Drop-in centre with clients in attendance

SIFA Fireside drop in centre

It is thanks to Birmingham homelessness and alcohol misuse charity SIFA Fireside, that Gary, 45, has both of those things. Down on his luck, out of work and with no home to go to, SIFA helped Gary get back on his feet, train for a job and find somewhere to call home. That’s why this Christmas he’s returning to SIFA to repay the kindness by volunteering.

“The wife and I were married about eight years and we started having real problems. She had an alcohol problem. We separated, then got back together and separated and got back together again. I didn’t want to give up on her, but in the end, by staying, I was giving up on myself. When I finally walked out all I had was a little rucksack and a plastic bag. I was in an out of hostels until I heard about SIFA.

It was here that I got the help I needed. I wanted to do a gas safe course for a while. I hadn’t been in a learning environment since polytechnic in the 80’s. SIFA helped me get the funding to do it. I’m on the first year of my course now and I’m looking at being self-employed by 2016.

I’ve got my own front door now. They helped me sort that out and provided me with basics furnishing to get started. I pop in and out as I want.

SIFA is also helping me to sort out my debts, the house repossession and all the legal things to do with that. Solicitors volunteer here and give us advice.

At Christmas, I’ll come down here when I’m not in college and help out. I’ve made new friendships. It’s been a learning process. I enjoy helping out. We are all human beings and I want to do whatever I can to help.”


Gary sorted his life out with help from SIFA’s Changing Lives project which received £326,956 from Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching Communities funding programme.


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