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Unique project to provide opportunities for people affected by homelessness

Lord Lieutenant of Belfast Fionnuala Jay-O'Boyle with Welcome Organisation CEO Sandra Moore and Welcome Organisation Chair Seamus McGranaghan

The Welcome Organisation, a leading Belfast-based homelessness charity, is launching a unique initiative to assist people move out of homelessness and sustain their accommodation long term.

The Organisation will offer new opportunities for people who are homelessness or at risk of homelessness through Welcome Home, an exciting new furniture and creative arts project opening this week.

Moving on from homelessness can be a long term issue, many people struggle to set up home, are unemployed and feel isolated and alone having become accustomed to the hustle and bustle of hostel living. Many revert back to being homeless, this project aims to help break the cycle by offering a range of services:

· furniture bank to assist people make houses into homes. Someone with few possessions being allocated an unfurnished tenancy can find it a struggle to get the basic furniture needed. The programme will take donated furniture to assist set up homes.

· restyling and redesigning furniture and everyday items for sale in a Welcome Home shop. This will offer homeless clients and volunteers the opportunity to rediscover skills and be trained in new ones which will help with employability.

The project will also have a retail boutique open to the public selling beautifully unique homeware and gifts – with proceeds being reinvested into the project creating more opportunities for more people.

Lord Lieutenant of Belfast Fionnuala Jay O’Boyle will officially open Welcome Home on Thursday, August 23, 2018 and the boutique will be open to the public from Friday, August 24.

Seed funding has been made by Comic Relief, Big Lottery and the Housing Executive.

At present the project has been able to offer part-time employment opportunities to 4 people and hopes to have doubled this by the end of the year. Welcome Home has already teamed with Outside In a West Belfast-based Community Interest Company which has developed a clothing brand with a ‘Wear One, Share One’ ethos where with every purchase they give the customer a free blanket or beanie to give to someone who is homeless.

Sandra Moore, Chief Executive of The Welcome Organisation, said:

"The Welcome Organisation has been working at the ‘front line’ of homelessness services for two decades and is recognised for its pragmatic approach and creativity in developing new ways to deal with the longstanding issue of homelessness.

"It can be difficult to break the cycle of homelessness, Welcome believes that every individual has aspirations, many of these have been stripped away resulting in loss of self-worth. Many of those we work with find it difficult to see a way forward. For some the route out of homelessness and associated poverty can be found through training and employment.

"Welcome Home is a new social enterprise which will help people move on from homelessness once and for all. It will, improve health and well-being, help people regain their confidence and provide the opportunity to learn new skills which would ultimately improve employability for our clients and volunteers. The creative skills many of our clients have never fails to impress, this project will utilise these, give people back self-worth and ease them back into the community.

"Volunteers and furniture donations are needed to support this exciting new initiative. So many talented and skilled people are found in our community, this is a great way for people to become involved and make a real long term difference. Collectively we can make change happen, even if it is one seat, sofa or fridge at a time.

"We are all very excited by the programme which sends out a strong message that homeless people matter and homelessness shouldn’t mean hopelessness.”

The Welcome Home boutique is a ten minute walk from Belfast City Centre (Unit 38, 28 Townsend Street, Belfast, BT13 2ES). It will be open to the public Monday-Friday from 1pm-5pm.

Welcome Home products will also be available at a craft fairs, pop-up shops, festivals and more.

The Welcome Organisation has been providing potentially life-saving support for people affected by homelessness in the city since 1996. Their services include a Drop-in Centre, a Street Outreach service, Crisis Accommodation for Women and a Floating Support Service.

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