Story of 'loss and hope' told in new exhibition charting life at Sheffield homelessness project

A symbolic photograph showing how homeless people in Sheffield had to be handed thousands of meals through the bars of a gate during the Covid-19 pandemic is among those chosen to star in a new exhibition.

Friday, 3rd September 2021, 3:32 pm

Food was passed through the gate at Sheffield homelessness charity The Archer Project to those who use its services during lockdown, to adhere to strict social distancing measures at the time.

The image is just one that features in an upcoming photography exhibition from next week and throughout September in Sheffield Cathedral.

To the Gate and Back features 54 photographs taken by Sheffield based photographer, Mark Harvey. It will also show a number of films that exhibit what life was like before and during the coronavirus pandemic.

Paul, a volunteer at the project.

Mark said: “During the pandemic I started noticing a lot of people who had never been homeless turning up.

"People who had lost jobs as a result of Covid and found themselves at the gate of The Archer Project. “These people don’t fit the single narrative of homelessness and I thought it was important to document this period of time in hopes of dispelling the stigmas attached to homelessness.”

The pre-Covid section of the exhibition shows what life was like for those using the project before the pandemic hit: group activities, meals in the charity’s Domino Hall and a place to relax when street living is hard.

It moves on to Covid, a tumultuous time for the project with strict social distancing policies in place meaning meals were delivered through the gate, and then an arson attack which decimated Domino Hall and offices. Finally, the exhibition looks towards life after Covid and the hopes of raising enough capital to refurbish the badly destroyed rooms.

Sunday morning, very cold, handing out hot drinks and sausage sandwiches.

Tim Renshaw, CEO of The Archer Project, said: “To the Gate and Back is our story of loss and new hope. “The gate should never be the place we hand out food and clothes or offer support to people. For over a year it became a symbol of us providing an inadequate service because we had to.

"These hard times threw up stories of hope and determination and the exhibition covers the highs and lows. “We hope we have said goodbye to service at the gate but in these strange times we can never be certain.”

In 2020 alone, the project served over 8,400 breakfast and lunches through the gates.

The destruction of the fire at the Cathedral Archer Project 14th May 2020.