Probably most people in Sheffield are not aware that there is an Alcohol Restriction Zone (ARZ) in place. This extends from the City to the inner ring road. It was introduced in December 2005. You are now committing an offence if you are found drinking alcohol within the inner ring road of the city centre.

Ben’s Centre has worked closely with the City Management team, the Police and Vulnerable people’s task group to represent street drinker’s views and concerns regarding the ARZ.

Most people do not appreciate that you cannot just stop drinking. Even if you had the greatest willpower in the world you cannot suddenly stop as it would be extremely dangerous. The body would start fitting dangerously and many other serious side-effects would happen. We always recommend that our clients reduce very slowly their alcohol intake. If they come into the Centre and are displaying withdrawal symptoms we often advice them to go and have a drink, as we know the seriousness of withdrawing suddenly can have on them.

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A city built on alcohol,

drawn by one of our clients.

One of the immediate effects of the ARZ on our clients has been that they have been “binge” drinking as they are so worried that their drink will be confiscated by the Police. This has had a bad effect on their health too as it is a pattern they are not used too. Street drinkers drink slowly and keep themselves topped up to a level where they can operate and don’t start to experience withdrawal.

Whilst consulting clients at Ben’s about the proposal of an ARZ in Sheffield, one of our clients said,” of 40 years drinking I have only 3 D &D’s (charges of Drunk and Disorderly). Why am I treated like a leper for drinking? I don’t want to drink I need to drink. I don’t want to be what I am. I’d rather have a family, house and job than have this disease that I have. I have no choice and I have to drink, I don’t want to but it’s a disease”.

Just this week in the “Star” newspaper there is an article about the police looking into the feasibility of using the habitual Drinkers Act in Sheffield. This act dates back to the 1990’s and makes it illegal for traders to sell to intoxicated people they have been informed about. This is in the hope that by depriving street drinkers of their drink it will encourage them to seek help for their problems. They are awaiting the results from a pilot scheme in Bristol.

Our centre is called Ben’s centre because a policeman about 10yrs ago saw that just arresting our clients, often repeatedly, for being Drunk and Disorderly didn’t actually achieve anything. Moving them on continually meant they had to go somewhere. It just moved the problem to a different area for a while. Ben decided that there must be more he could do and so eventually he managed to get a place where they could go in the day and so lessened the strain on policing them and also gave these people a place of safety and stability. He decided to address the problem and find a workable solution for all sides.

We will feature Ben’s story in more detail one week because it is worth hearing. There is an answer and we don’t have to get political to find one. Our centre works tirelessly to work with these people. Excessive drinking is a big problem nation-wise and our clients are just a very small proportion of the problem.