DANDERING through Writer’s Square last Monday, I was saddened to come across this sight. I took this photo because I wanted to show the stark difference between Belfast’s biggest Cathedral and the destitute poverty stricken humans that sleep outside it.
I tweeted the image, not thinking it would generate much of a response but it did and it was here that a volunteer with Belfast Helping Homeless came my way.
In between working in admin during the day and volunteering at night, Katie Murphy is also a writer and an actor. She became involved with Belfast Helping Homeless when she was collecting clothes for refugees. It made her think about helping those closer to home.
She contacted the group via their Facebook page and asked to go out on to the streets of Belfast with them. She was then trained by the volunteers in how to approach people and be aware of personal safety.
The group meet in Belfast City Centre and bring food, clothes and sleeping bags. Katie says: ” We bring donations from the public and bring our own food. People we know would donate clothes and warm jackets. Our outreach team then go out to the streets and hand them out. We are coming across so many homeless people in Belfast. Some are lucky enough to get into hostels but some can’t get a bed.”
Asked if there was a majority gender or age of homeless person, Katie said “There’s no specific type on the streets. There’s men and women of all ages. People are just finding life very hard these days. It could happen to any of us, we’re all just a couple of pay cheques away from homelessness.” She added.
Belfast Helping Homeless have a team of up to fifteen volunteers that walk around the city centre six nights a week. Wearing identifiable bibs, they go to spots where homeless people are known to sleep. Sometimes they get approached by the people themselves and give out sleeping bags, blankets, clothes, food, drinks and snacks.
Asked how the group has been received by the homeless people they have met, Katie said: “Their response has been nothing but courteous. The people have been grateful for any help we can give. It makes you really appreciative of what you have in life, its a truly humbling experience.”
If you would like to donate toiletries, clothes, food or drinks to Belfast Helping Homeless – you can contact them via their Facebook page.
**If you volunteer for a similar type charity and are accepting donations, please reply with the contact details and I will put them onto this blog. Thanks, Aine**