Larne’s Simon Community provides help for the homeless over Christmas

L-R: Simon Community Larne support worker Rebecca White, manager Tracy Millar and support worker Tracey McGrogan. INLT-52-709-con
L-R: Simon Community Larne support worker Rebecca White, manager Tracy Millar and support worker Tracey McGrogan. INLT-52-709-con

Larne’s Simon Community hostel will be operating at full capacity this Christmas, providing shelter and a Christmas dinner for 18 residents.

The local facility on Curran Road has provided accomodation for a total of 98 homeless people in 2016.

Manager Tracy Millar says the centre is doing all it can to ensure those without a home of their own still enjoy the festive period.

“At Christmas it’s the little things which people miss, like not having a Christmas tree to decorate, not being in a family home and living with people they don’t know,” she stated.

“They may not know anyone or even the town if they come from elsewhere.

“On project we have client meetings and activities and they get their own space and the sense of security.”

Tracy says that anyone can fall victim to homelessness.

“We have people aged 18 upwards and people in their sixties and anyone of any social class can be affected,” she explained.

“It could be that someone has lost their job and can’t pay the mortgage, or they have experienced relationship break down, family disputes or a private rental has went wrong.

“A lot of young ones come out of the care system at 18.

“Also, you don’t have to be on the streets to be homeless, you could be sofa surfing.”

According to the Simon Community, 18,628 households presented as homeless to the NI Housing Executive during 2015-16.

Of this, 34 per cent were single males and 32 per cent were families.

Statistics reveal that single people make up 43 per cent of those considered statutorily homeless in Northern Ireland, while small families make up 27 per cent and elderly people make up 16 per cent.

Large families and adult-only households make up the remaining 13 per cent.

Those seeking the Simon Community’s help often have complex needs.

“Mental health is a big one and they may be suffering from drug and alcohol addiction,” Tracy continued.

“It is more recognised now.

“For counselling and mental health we sign post to other agencies and we also have our own Simon Community harm reduction service for alcohol and drugs.

“We also work with organisations such as PIPS Larne, Lifeline, Christians Against poverty, Larne Foodbank, Extern and local churches.”

One Simon Community resident who accessed the hostel due to family relationship breakdown said: “It’s nice to have a place to come to and to have someone around to give you support.

“If they weren’t here I don’t know what I would do.”

The Simon Community’s central access point can be contacted on 08001712222.