By Eimhear McGurk
On a very windy and blustery Thursday, as Omagh was just recovering from the aftermath of Storm Ali, a group of young people from South West College staged a 12-hour sit-out to show solidarity with those who are homeless.
The demonstration was led by those involved in the Youthscape programme which involves young people undertaking a social impact project to addresses modern-day barriers and challenges.
“We wanted to raise awareness of youth homelessness and hidden homelessness, to show how severe this issue is and to highlight all the services which are out there to help,” explained Grainne Kelly who took part in the sit-out.
“People imagine homelessness being just those who are on the streets, but the hidden aspect, those who are sofa surfing is very much an issue here locally.
“We wanted to educate people about this growing issue.”
Homelessness is indeed prevalent in the North; almost 20,000 people in the last year asked the Housing Executive for help to find a home.
Alongside the demonstration which attracted large crowds there was also an advice desk which offered a range of information about homelessness and highlighted the local services which are on hand to help.
Jacqueline McDowell, programme co-ordinator of the Youthscape programme said the sit-out was a “huge success”.
“The effort that has gone into this has been unreal. All the young people are very passionate about what they are doing, they have thought out every single element.
“Our staff merely facilitated this project, it was very much led by the participants themselves,” continued Jacqueline. “The young people
came up with the idea about raising awareness of homelessness because they found that hidden homelessness, which is those who sleep on
people’s couches and jump between homes for refuge, as well as other homelessness is a big issue for young people.”
There was £280 raised at the event’s bun sale, and this money will be donated to Action for Children Omagh, a local service which helps homeless kids or those who are at risk.
The Youthscape programme focuses on three keys areas, good relationship, citizenship and personal development.
It is funded by the Peace IV programme from the Special EU Programmes body (SEUPB). The programme has guaranteed funding until November 2021, but whether such funding will continue post-Brexit is still very much up in the air.
The programme is now recruiting a new cohort for October. It is targeted at those aged 14-24 who are not in full-time education training or employment. For those wishing to get involved, contact South West College in Omagh for more information.