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Stephen launches Sylvester’s Fund Christmas Appeal

Stephen’s life was turned around after he received help with finding and furnishing his own home. He has now launched Derventio’s 2021 Christmas Appeal to raise money for Sylvester’s Fund, which gives out small grants to help people facing homelessness to take the next steps in their lives.

Sometimes totalling just a few pounds, the grants pay for items people need in order to access training, get a job or to furnish a new home.

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. We 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 the cancer got worse, we 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.

His £4,200 gift 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 made his own donation to the fund – £50 – earlier this year after Derventio 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.

His support worker also helped Stephen to get a bank account, register for council tax and utilities and also deal with outstanding issues in his life.

He said:

This will be my second Christmas in my own home and 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 person hoping to take a decorating course.

It even paid for clamps and a multi-use tool for one applicant who was hoping to set up her own woodworking business.

Jackie Carpenter, Assistant Director of Strategy, said:

Stephen is a perfect example of Christmas spirit and we’re delighted that he has agreed to help us launch Sylvester’s Fund Christmas Appeal this year.

Every penny you give will make a big difference. The list of grants applications that the fund received in 2021 is a real snapshot of the kind of items that most people take for granted but which for a homeless person, who has limited money, are a lifeline.

Before we had Sylvester’s Fund, people would ask us for help to get essential ID documents and we had to say no.

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 make a donation visit