Carrickfergus people volunteer to ‘Connect with the Homeless’ Posted on 5 March 2024

A group of people from Carrickfergus have been discovering the real-life stories behind Northern Ireland’s homelessness problem as part of a project supported by Clanmil.

‘Connect With the Homeless’ is being led by Carrickfergus community group, Carrick Connect in partnership with Belfast Homeless Services, and has been running since last winter.

The project is being funded by the Department for Communities and the NI Housing Executive as part of a Good Relations plan for Clanmil’s new ‘Housing For All’ shared housing development on Belfast Road, Carrickfergus where construction is nearing completion on 48 high quality apartments for people aged 55 and over.

The year long programme involves five groups of seven people participating in weekly workshops, involving visiting and helping out at Belfast Homeless Services’ drop-in facility, as well as learning about homelessness from Liz Rocks, who is the co-ordinator of Belfast Homeless Services.

Tracey McNickle, Project Coordinator at Carrick Connect said she’s delighted with the positive feedback she’s received from the participants:

“When we introduced the project late last year through our Facebook page we were overwhelmed by the number of people wanting to take part. The feedback has been very positive. People are commenting that they weren’t aware of the reasons why people become homeless, so it has been enlightening and educational. We’re really pleased that four of the people in the current cohort are now keen to become volunteers with Belfast Homeless Services after shadowing other volunteers during their visits. We’re grateful for Clanmil’s support and we look forward to continuing the programme in 2024. We would invite anyone who is interested in taking part in the project to contact us at Carrick Connect.”

Austin Kelly, Community Investment Officer with Clanmil added:

“We were pleased to support this project because as a provider of homes for people who are on the housing waiting list, including many homeless people, we are aware that homelessness is a serious problem in Northern Ireland. We are keen to support projects that help to challenge stereotypes around homelessness and to raise awareness around the issue.

“We’ve been working with a number of community groups in the Carrickfergus area as we get ready to welcome tenants to our new shared housing development on Belfast Road in the town. Many of the projects we support challenge discrimination and stereotypes and encourage learning about people’s different cultures and backgrounds, which is part of the ethos of shared housing.”

Jamie Peart works in the care sector and is looking forward to becoming a volunteer with Belfast Homeless Service after taking part in the ‘Connect with the Homeless’ project:

“I always like interacting with people who need a little bit of extra support, and when I found out about this project, I was straight on board with it. It has changed my perspective about what ‘homeless’ actually means, as it’s not always about someone living on the streets.

Homelessness can arise within many different areas and backgrounds, so it has opened my mind. The training has been going well so far and the volunteers I’ve met at Belfast Homeless Services are great fun and really lovely. It is a great opportunity.”

The ‘Housing for All’ Shared Housing Programme has its origins in the NI Executive Together: Building a United Community Strategy which reflects the Executive’s commitment to improving community relations and continuing the journey towards a more united and shared society.