During Homeless Awareness Week (HAW), Simon Community NI was just one of the many organisations involved in this annual event; which heightens awareness and promotes understanding, of the many dynamics of homelessness across Northern Ireland. The important event also provides an opportunity to inform people facing homelessness of what help of available and how to access it.

People who are homeless can find it very difficult to find a place to live. There is a large waiting list for affordable housing with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. There are hundreds of families and single people who are at risk of becoming homeless. These people are often at risk of losing their current accommodation due to a range of reasons, including welfare reform, struggling to pay their rent or falling into mortgage arrears.

A small minority of people who are homeless sleep rough, but most stay in emergency accommodation such as a hostel or night shelter, B&B, with family and friends, or in a squat. All of these are very stressful and short-term arrangements. In some of them only essential living necessities are available; in others not even basic needs are being met. None of them is a place to call home.

A common misconception is that the vast majority of homeless people are not older men with alcohol problems; they are ordinary people like you and me who have hit a crisis and need a helping hand to get back on track.

Derry City and Strabane District Council members held a special event in the City’s Guildhall, during this year’s Homeless Awareness Week. This was a real celebration to acknowledge the ‘Homeless Heroes’ within the local community.  These are people who work on the front line to make a real difference to the lives of homeless people, by providing support and advice through their time of crisis and back into independent living.

One of the award winning heroes was Simon Community NI’s Geraldine McKeever pictured receiving her much coveted award from Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Mayor, Maoliosa McHugh.

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