When we think of homelessness, we generally think of people
spending the night on the streets. Kieran Hughes, fundraising
and marketing manager at The Welcome Organisation,
tells how this is not necessarily true.
“The most obvious and visual sign is people sleeping rough on
the streets but there is a lot of hidden homelessness in Northern
Ireland. Every year in Northern Ireland, over 18,000 people
present to the Housing Executive as homeless. That is coming under one of the categories of sleeping rough on the streets, sleeping in a hostel, sofa surfing, living in poor conditions or living in fear of violence. Of those, around 12,000 are accepted as homeless.”
The Welcome Organisation provides a large outreach scheme that provides assistance to all categories of homeless people. “We are part of the Housing Executive’s homelessness strategy so we do get funding through the Department for Communities, which is fantastic. However, in order to deliver our full range of services, we need to raise about £250,000 ourselves a year. Grants that come through places like The Black Santa are invaluable and we couldn’t deliver what we do without them. The money is used to buy food, sleeping bags and toiletries for the outreach team and we couldn’t do it without the generosity of the public. It is invaluable and we couldn’t be more thankful.
We prepare around 120 cooked, hot meals a day and bring those out to people. We prepare around 70 food parcels a week and bring those to people who have cooking facilities.”
Kieran explains that it is the relationship with the Cathedral that led to applying for the funding. “We’ve had a good relationship with St Anne’s Cathedral. In terms of helping the homeless, the Cathedral has always been very conscious of people who are homeless in Belfast. The people at the cathedral will be in touch with our outreach service if they saw someone around the cathedral who we could maybe help. I have been to a couple of the presentation ceremonies and it is phenomenal the amount of charities who benefit and it is phenomenal the money that the Black Santa appeal is able to raise.”
How they can raise such phenomenal amounts of money and support such a wide and diverse range of charities is amazing to see and something that we should all be incredibly proud of.”
And of those that donate to The Black Santa Christmas Sit-Out? “The fact it is all from people from this city passing by, coming up to the Christmas period, really shows the generosity of the people of Belfast and the people of Northern Ireland.”
To find out more about Welcome Organisation, visit their website here.
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