Birmingham businesses donate over £36,000 at fundraiser for city’s homelessness charity

22 May 2019

Birmingham based businesses donated well over £36,000 to a local homelessness charity at a fundraising dinner held at one of the city’s top restaurants last night, Tuesday 21 May.

The fundraiser was organised by Opus Restaurant in aid of SIFA Fireside  which provides vital support services to the city’s rough sleepers at its drop-in centre in Digbeth, and supported by Colmore BID, the company responsible for improving and promoting Birmingham’s thriving commercial centre.

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, attended the dinner along with 200 business professionals from over 20 companies in Colmore Business District and other firms across the city – making it the highest ever single service at Opus’s two AA Rosette establishment in Cornwall Street – and, thanks to PwC Midlands sponsoring the event, all of the £22,000 raised from ticket sales went straight to SIFA Fireside.

The Mayor, who has made tackling homelessness and rough sleeping one of his key priorities in office, spoke to the audience about the work of the Homelessness Task Force he has established to deliver on this objective. Talks were also given by PwC Midlands Chairman Matthew Hammond, SIFA Fireside’s Chief Executive Carly Jones and Kitchen Supervisor Maria Urmos, and Colmore BID Street Operations Manager John-Jo Von Johnson. 

Diners learned about the range of services that SIFA Fireside has to offer from immediate practical support at its drop-in centre to intensive long-term assistance that helps ensure people do not fall back into homelessness. Programmes include access to physical health clinics, employment support, housing advice, welfare benefits and a dedicated tenancy support worker. SIFA Fireside is the only organisation of its kind offering this range of services to homeless and vulnerable adults in Birmingham.

The charity also serves meals every day and its kitchen is run by volunteers, including Opus’s Chef Director Ben Ternent, who has cooked lunch once a month for around 160 of SIFA Fireside’s clients over the last 18 months.

SIFA Fireside is Colmore BID’s nominated charity and guests also heard about the day-to-day work of the BID’s street operations team who regularly engage with and assist the city’s rough sleepers.

Following the presentations, an auction was held for a host of prizes, including a tutored wine tasting session, spa treatments and a return trip to Opus to experience its kitchen table and bespoke five-course tasting menu. Prizes were quickly snapped up as the bids came in thick and fast. The auction, together with tickets sales, donations and a raffle draw resulted in a grand total of £36,750 being donated to SIFA Fireside.

The charity is putting the bulk of the money towards expanding its IT suite to create more opportunities for its clients to gain much needed access to computers so that they can tap into support networks, look for work, search suitable accommodation and reconnect with family members and friends. 

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said:

“SIFA Fireside is an excellent charity and I am delighted Tuesday night’s event raised so much money for them. This cash boost will undoubtedly help them build on their great work in tackling homelessness across Birmingham.

“I am committed to tackling homelessness and rough sleeping, which is why I set up the Homelessness Task Force in 2017. The aim of the task force is to design out homelessness and, by working closely with organisations like SIFA Fireside, I am confident we will be able to do that.”

Carly Jones, Chief Executive of SIFA Fireside, said:

“We have been overwhelmed by the amazing efforts that Opus and Colmore BID have made to ensure that this evening was a huge success. Opus have gone above and beyond to help us achieve our vision of giving better access to IT for vulnerable people in the city and we are so grateful to the business community for showing their commitment to such an important issue. In particular PwC’s sponsorship of the event has meant that every penny raised tonight will be spent directly on supporting people out of homelessness.

“We were delighted that Andy Street took time out of his busy schedule to attend. Through strong partnerships with the combined authority,  commercial and voluntary sectors, and key organisations like Colmore BID we can make a difference to the lives of people rough sleeping and at risk of homelessness in Birmingham.”

Opus Chef Director Ben Ternent said:

“I can honestly say I derive as much satisfaction from cooking with the volunteers at SIFA Fireside as I do designing a new menu for the restaurant, and all of us at Opus were delighted to put this dinner on for such a good cause.  But it was a lot of hard work for my team – we’ve never catered for so many people in one sitting – so I have to say a special thanks to our kitchen and front of house staff. 

“It’s great that the event was so popular amongst local businesses though and that’s testament to their interest in SIFA Fireside’s work and their willingness to support the charity’s efforts.”

Mike Best from planning consultancy Turley and a Director at Colmore BID said:

“It seems a contradiction to enjoy dinner at Opus to help the homeless, but I hope that raising money that has a direct impact, raising awareness that prompts others to act, and volunteering to help as several BID directors have done at SIFA, all support our collective efforts, with the Mayor’s, to do something to change people’s lives.”