Coffee appeal offers a cup of kindness to Sheffield's homeless

On a cold blustery day, a hot cup of coffee can be an enormous boost.

Thursday, 10th March 2016, 07:00 am
Updated Monday, 7th March 2016, 14:16 pm

Nobody knows this better than Jennie Swift, the founder of Pending Coffee Sheffield.

Thanks to Jennie, and the scheme she launched six months ago, there are coffees, cakes and soups set aside at cafes all around the city, waiting to be redeemed by those who can’t afford them.

“Pending Coffee is a tradition that started in Naples where customers pay in advance for a coffee on behalf of someone who can’t afford one,” explained Jennie.

“A homeless person can then redeem the pending coffee for free - it’s a simple but really effective idea.”

The 39-year-old was determined to see if the scheme could work in Sheffield, where hundreds of people are thought to sleep rough every year.

“I wanted to enable the homeless and vulnerable to have a drink at a normal cafe,” she said.

“I’d like to encourage them to socialise with the wider community.”

Since Pending Coffee Sheffield launched, nine city cafes have already signed up to take part; among them is Café at the Art House.

Manager Jo Hardiman said: “I think the problem a lot of places are having is that they don’t want homeless people coming in and sitting in their cafes as they worry it will put customers off.

“The more I see the good it does, the more passionate I get. I really hope the people of Sheffield don’t allow the initial novelty value to wear off and that they keep donating.”

Entitled to pending coffees are the homeless and vulnerable involved with the Cathedral Archer Project, Ben’s Centre, Sheffield Rough Sleepers Service, and victims of human trafficking through the Snowdrop Project.

But in some places there are still not enough people coming forward to redeem the donated food and drinks.

Jon Johnson, owner of Strip the Willow in Sharrow, said three or four people a week come in to take advantage of the offer.

“We don’t get lots of take -up on it but it’s nice to have it there,” he said.

“I think part of the problem is the homeless often feel they aren’t going to be greeted warmly, and that’s certainly not the case here.”

But Louise Prey, manager of Golden Harvest on Cambridge Street, says the cafe has seen, on average, one coffee donated and redeemed every day.

“To be honest, even if we don’t have one currently pending, we’ll happily give one away.”