The Stormont Executive must invest in better support services for young homeless people, including the provision of purpose-built youth accommodation.
The call comes as young people share their harrowing stories of life on the streets being exposed to drugs, alcohol and increasing desperation.
These young people have been supported by the Relentless Change Programme (RCP), run by the Northern Ireland Youth Forum (NIYF) and funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, which supports homeless young people and advocates on their behalf.
For the past four years the RCP Programme provided opportunities for homeless young people to engage in experiential group work, university and work placement opportunities, residentials and developmental one to ones. They also created a youth steering group that provided homeless young people with a platform to have their voice heard.
The project has produced its second animated film, Pinball II: Young People’s Journeys Through Homelessness, which was created by three young people who have gone through the system.
Paul Dynes from the RCP project said: “We are hopeful that this video will shine a spotlight on some of the issues faced by young homeless people. It is vital that more funding is put into support services and the creation of appropriate facilities that meet the need of young homeless people”
RCP member Matthew, who shares his story in Pinball II, said: “I felt nervous but excited sharing my story as I didn’t know who was going to listen or if it is going to have a positive impact on other young people. I hope young people hear my story and realise that they don’t have to do it all alone, and that you can ask for help. There are organisations out there that are more than happy to help. I hope our video attracts a lot of attention as we need everyone out there to come together and fight the same fight against homelessness”.
PINBALL II shows the challenges that vulnerable young people face, including strain on their mental health, drug addiction, lack of appropriate facilities in some hostels, and a lack of support services. It will be launched on Thursday, April 22 at 3pm via Zoom on the NIYF Facebook Page.
Conchuir Mac Siacais, from the RCP project said: “In creating both short films, we sat down with RCP members, listened to their stories, and used creative methods to bring their experiences to life. The PINBALL series demonstrates what can be achieved when young people take control of their own narratives and use those stories to lobby those with power for change”.
All three young people who created the film signed up for RCP while homeless, they connected to the youth work approach, that was at the core of the project. RCP staff were able to support them through challenging times and they are now all living independently and have transformed their lives for the better.
PINBALL II is a follow-up to the initial project film created in April 2019, which depicted three young people’s journeys into homelessness. The problems raised in the first video led to the creation of two peer advocacy posts held by young people with experience of the system. It also led to the creation of an out of hours homelessness service by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. The aim now is to develop a third video Pinball III which will illustrate young people’s journeys into independent living.