Latest News | 13 December 2021

Social landlord launches Christmas charity appeal

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A former homeless man whose life was turned around by Derventio Housing Trust has launched the social landlord’s Christmas charity appeal.

Stephen Fletcher is hoping his story will help the trust raise money for its Sylvester’s Fund, which gives out small grants to former homeless people to help them take the next step in their lives.

Grants from the fund pay for items applicants need to access training, get a job or to furnish a new home after leaving a Derventio property.

The fund is named after Sylvester Cichowski, a Polish national and former Derventio resident who left £4,200 to the organisation in his will following his death in 2017.

He made the gesture as a thank you to the organisation, which started working with him when he was in hospital with bowel cancer in 2016 and was about to be discharged.

He had no home to go to, no money and no identification documents, so staff applied to the Polish consulate for an ID card, before helping him make a claim for his benefits, finding him a home and arranging for a food parcel.

As cancer got worse, Derventio arranged for Sylvester to move into a care home which had Polish staff for him to talk to – and who would make him food from home.

The £4,200 was put into an empowerment fund to help other homeless people to buy essential items in their own time of need, such as second-hand furniture or white goods, an important document such as a birth certificate or something they might need for a hobby or interest.

Stephen, who lives in Riddings, made his own donation to the fund – £50 – earlier this year after the trust helped him to move into his own home.

Before then, he had been sleeping in a horse box or on friends’ sofas after he was forced to leave the home he’d shared with his mum following her death.

Derventio also helped Stephen to get a bank account, register for council tax and utilities and also deal with criminal proceedings after he was arrested for possessing a Class A drug.

He said: “This will be my first Christmas in my own home, and it makes such a difference.

“Every time I think about where I might be now had Derventio not helped me, I feel extremely grateful for everything they’ve done for me.

“I know what a huge difference a bit of help or even the most basic item can make when you’ve been homeless and you’re trying to move on.

“That’s why I wanted to make a donation to Sylvester’s Fund and I hope that other people will make a donation too.”

Derventio gave out more than 100 grants from Sylvester’s Fund during 2021, with the money being used for everything from mobile phones, driving licences, cookers, clothing, kettles and toasters, to curtain poles and overalls for one applicant hoping to take a decorating course.

Jackie Carpenter, assistant director of strategy at Derventio Housing Trust, said: “Stephen is a perfect example of the huge impact we can have on the lives of the people we work with, and we’re delighted that he has agreed to help us launch Sylvester’s Fund Christmas Appeal this year.

“Everyone the fund helped in 2021 can now look to 2022 with positivity and we hope that by raising more money we can help change more people’s lives around in the future.”

To find out more and to make a donation please click here.

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