More than 100 young people affected by homelessness have rebuilt their lives thanks to a major project run by the Northern Ireland Youth Forum.
The Relentless Change Programme, funded by ‘The National Lottery Community Fund’ has had a real impact on the lives of these young people, helping them to find permanent accommodation, employment and connection to vital statutory services. The RCP Programme is supported by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, Extern and Ulster University.
This has been achieved largely through The Youth Forum’s ‘Relentless Youth Work Approach’ with the young people establishing transformational relationships and completing personal and social development and experiential learning courses to help them deal with the challenges and pressures of homelessness.
On top of that 18 young people have completed a work placement this year and 41 have completed an accredited Ulster University course on civic empowerment. A further 15 are registered to take part in the course in April.
On Tuesday 26th Nov 2019 at the Northern Ireland Youth Forum, programme participants, staff and partner agencies came together to celebrate their successes on the programme over the last year.
One of the participants, Saoirse McEvoy, is now employed by Northern Ireland Youth Forum as a Youth Apprentice in its Peer Mentoring Project.
Saoirse, who chaired the celebration event said, “Being on the Relentless Change Project has changed my life massively in relation to my mental health, before I started the project I was not in a good place. I had the most brilliant experience from this project and made the most amazing friends. I gained lots of skills and developed my qualities. Having the opportunity to experience university was incredible.”
Conchuir MacSiacais, a Relentless Change Project worker, spoke about how the young people involved in the project formed a Youth Steering Group to campaign and advocate on behalf of their homeless peers. This group regularly liaises with an Expert Steering Group to look at ideas for reducing the levels of homelessness among young people.
He said: “In the lead up to the summer the youth steering group launched its first film with key messages for service providers and decision makers, during this period the project also supported a number of groups of young people through different pillars of the project, some of those young people have went on the join the youth steering group.
“I feel privileged to be able to work with such an amazing team, a brilliant funder, and inspiring groups of young people and today’s event was really about recognising and celebrating the achievements of all of those amazing people”.
In the second year of this three-year programme, more than 40 young homeless people engaged with the RCP project.
As a result of their work, they continued to present key messages which they feel would make life easier for other young people in the same situation.
- Access to correct information from NIHE at the right time.
- Don’t put young people in hostels with older people or in B&Bs
- Family Intervention at the right time could help prevent homelessness
- Social services need to do more to help support young people leaving care
- An advice service for youth homelessness that is flexible and provides out of hours support
- Young people need more choices in relation to housing options
- Services and decision makers to listen and learn from young people
- More education in schools and youth clubs about homelessness