Sit-out highlights Youth homelessness

November 11, 2013

By Christine Keighery

Over 50 young people from the 9 Neighbourhood Renewal Areas in Newry took part in a 24 hour sit-out in the Cathedral Quarter last Saturday to raise awareness of homelessness among young people in their local area. In particular, the group aimed to draw attention to so-called “sofa surfing” which is less recognised as a real form of homelessness.

As one young person involved pointed out,

“Homelessness doesn’t always mean living on the streets, more often it means staying on a friend’s or relative’s sofa for short periods of time before moving on.”

In conjunction with the Southern Trust’s community adolescence service, the Young People’s Partnership (YPP), the youth groups decided to do something to let other young people know that help and advice is available to young people affected by homelessness.

During the sit-out, the Trust’s Youth Homeless workers were on hand to provide advice and support and to learn more about specific issues affecting young people and other interested individuals and groups.

Instead of collecting money the youth groups asked people to donate tinned/dried/non perishable food items which they plan to distribute to local charities working with the homeless in Newry.

Commenting on the local support Teresa Kearney from Newry Young People’s Partnership said,

“It’s been overwhelming the amount of food and the amount of stories the people in the Newry area have given to the young people. I think they’ve learned an awful lot from this. Local businesses donated a serious amount of food from 9 o’clock yesterday morning right through the night.”

Colm McCafferty, Head of Family Support and Safeguarding at the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, commended the initiative.

“We believe this is a very worthwhile exercise in raising awareness about the challenges faced by young people regarding accommodation options. At the same time, we are raising awareness of the Trust’s Gateway Social Work Service which supports young people under 18 years who find themselves homeless.”

For any young person affected by Homelessness they can contact  the Trust’s Gateway Service by telephoning 08007837745 or, after 5pm or at weekends, the Regional Emergency Social Work Service on 028 95049999.