Story: Richard Belbin
The Pakistan Advice and Community Association in Fir Vale was overjoyed to announce their plans to move into new premises on the ground floor of the old Firth Park Hotel on Page Hall Road which had lain empty and neglected for almost a year.
The Centre had been told eighteen months ago that the lease for the PAC’s existing premises on Owler Lane would not be renewed on completion.
“We have paid a very low rent on the property since we moved in, in 1999, and it has never increased at all. The landlord, a local resident, has been very good to us, and that allowed us to survive,”
volunteer Management Committee member Gulnaz Hussain told the Messenger.
“Initially the centre was based in a front room on Fir Vale Road,” said founding Management Committee member Wahid Nazir. “We helped people with letters, benefits and passport applications. Very soon we thought: ‘Let’s get a base where people can come, where the work could be organised better.’ We got a little money from Family and Community Services for rent and office equipment and had to fight to maintain our independence.”
Gaining the money to refurbish the new building hasn’t been easy either. Gulnaz told me how many groups have come together to support the new building.
“We finally got a decent amount of money from the Council to move offices, but still had to spend months getting grants from New Deal and others for plastering, painting and the partitions etc. The Jeevan Project got money from the Youth Opportunities Fund, where the decision was made by young people themselves. Now we can meet all disability and proper health and safety standards.”
Help from the community
“Various local traders have helped us too: a local tile company are doing the whole of the front for free. Another local company donated £3,000 for the phone system, Burngreave Drugs Project gave us a lot of furniture, the South Yorkshire Women’s Development Trust will be doing the finishing touches to the work and the landlord is fitting a kitchen and new windows throughout,”
Page Hall resident, Shamila Hussain, put the building design together with the architects to ensure there will be plenty of room available for clients and the community, with full disabled access. Projects will include the Advice and Advocacy Service, covering welfare law and immigration advice, the Citizenship Project, women-only sessions, as well as the drop-in for the Slovak community which is very busy. Other projects moving into the new space include the Jeevan Project, the older people’s project and the Nextstep programme which offers support for the unemployed to get them back into work.
An asset for Fir Vale
A range of other organisations have also shown an interest in delivering services from the centre including Activity Sheffield and South Yorkshire Police, creating a community hub the area previously lacked.
It’s all go to make sure the new centre is finished in time, but work is moving very rapidly. The electrics were being fitted as the Messenger visited and the rest of the work should be finished within a month. The Centre will be formally opened in October, followed by an open day for the public to see the completed building and services up and running (see the Messenger website for updated details).
Until then the Advice Centre will continue as normal, at Owler Lane, as well as projects at other locations. To help out at the Centre as a Management Committee member or volunteer, call Gulnaz Hussain on 261 9130.
The Management Committee would like to thank everyone who has supported them during the transition to the new building, and look forward to their continued support in the future.