Festive season for the homeless

Carol singers supporting the Simon Community
Carol singers supporting the Simon Community

The Lisburn branch of the Simon Community held a Christmas party at its Lisburn base at Flush Park, last Sunday.

It is just one of the events the Simon Community throughout Northern Ireland are holding highlighting the work and partnerships in the projects.

It has been often said that we are just two pay days away from being homeless and for many of us it’s just a stark thought - but for others it’s already a reality. 

As Christmas rapidly approaches and we look forward to spending time with friends and family there are many people in Northern Ireland experiencing the isolation and loneliness of being homeless.

Official figures from the Department for Social Development (DSD) show that the number of households who presented as homeless in 2015-2016 was 18,628. Given Northern Ireland’s population of around 1.8 million people, that equates to one in every 100 households which is roughly the same as the entire population of Antrim town.

The emerging trend of homelessness is becoming more of a problem for younger people with one in two of clients in Simon Community NI accommodation projects being under 26 years of age.

Simon Community NI has spent the past 40 years opening its doors to give a welcome and shelter to those who are homeless and sometimes hopeless in 22 communities acrossNorthern Ireland.

As the festive season gets into full flight, Simon Community NI are celebrating each of those projects and the people who live and work in them with their ‘Living Advent Calendar’ which was funded by a Big Lottery Fund grant of £5,000.

Events will include everything from carol singing, community coffee mornings, cooking Christmas dinner and decorating.

Hannah who has been with the Simon Community for just four months spoke about her and how it has made a difference to her life.

“I was made homeless because of issues in the family home,” said the 19-year old. “It was really hard and took a lot of getting used to. I went to the Housing Executive and told them my circumstances and they offered me emergency accommodation with Simon Community.

“I was terrified when I first moved in and cried the first day because I didn’t want to be here, I wanted to be at home. Now I feel a lot more comfortable and I’m used to the other young people here and the staff.”