Eamon, an exceptional carpenter from England came to Northern Ireland to establish a property maintenance business. However, following the break-up of his marriage 6 years later Eamon sold his business and moved into a private sector flat. Now unemployed, Eamon became depressed and started drinking. Due to his perceived suicidal state and drinking he lost his tenancy and found it impossible to access hostel accommodation. Eamon was found dead outside public toilets in Londonderry aged 34. People who are homeless and end up on the streets have very different needs. Most young people who experience rough sleeping simply need a place to live or help to reconcile with family or friends or get into employment. Others have more complex problems such as alcohol and drug related difficulties or serious mental and physical health problems. Yet, our work and success in tackling the problem of homelessness in Northern Ireland demonstrates that with the right help people can get their lives back on track and make a real contribution to their communities. By facilitating the crucial first-step from the street to independent living the development of a Night Outreach Service would help engage the most entrenched and hard to reach rough sleepers who have been on the streets for a considerable period of time and given up on anyone trying to help them.
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The primary goal of a Night Outreach Service is to ensure that people do not need to sleep rough at all. Anyone found on the streets will be given the help they need as quickly as possible so they can access appropriate services and move forward with their lives. To support this goal we have established partnerships with a wide range of statutory, voluntary and community sector agencies. We have developed personal action plans for people sleeping rough in and around town centre locations, but in the absence of a Night Outreach Service we are unable to target other known locations or deliver round the clock support to people sleeping rough in the North West. At present no out of hours service exists to assist young people and people with alcohol related issues access emergency hostel provision in the North West. Rather people who sleep rough have no other option but to wait until the morning to try to access appropriate services in which to register on hostel waiting lists for an upcoming bedspace. A Night Outreach Service incorporating an out of hours support service for people sleeping rough and/or at risk of sleeping rough would go a significant way towards helping agencies such as ourselves identify and record the long-term housing and support needs of people in crisis and facilitate more coherent and comparable data on the true extent of street homelessness in Strabane, Limavady and Londonderry. A Night Outreach Service would take young people off the streets and provide them with advice and information about the choices available to them and the implications of leaving home. We would also be able to provide an additional 6 bedspaces within our Damien House project at any time of the night to young people and people with chronic alcohol difficulties who are in need of an immediate housing response. We have received funding from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive who are committed to taclling street homelessness in Northern Ireland and responding to the needs of people who are homeless and sleeping rough. However, we require as much support as possible to keep the project open and ensure that anyone sleeping rough or at risk of experiencing homelessness receives the help and support they so desperately need to move forward with their lives.
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