Young people hold sit-out to share plight of homeless

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Young people hold sit-out to share plight of homeless thumbnailMagnet centre members stage sit out to raise homeless awareness

NEWRY Magnet Centre staff and volunteers recently staged their annual overnight sit-out to raise awareness on homelessness in present-day society.

The third Homeless Awareness Sit-Out took place recently, where group members sat out and braved the inclement weather until Sunday morning to showcase how prevalent youth homelessness is throughout the UK and Ireland.

Speaking to The Democrat about the issue, Magnet Centre youth worker Rebakah Rushe, in explaining the concept of the sit-out, said that the unseen homelessness within the district is much more grave than we think.

She said: "It's our third year of doing it and we sit out all day and right through to the Sunday morning to raise visibility on homeless issues, mainly sofa-surfing for young people, to show that there's different types of homelessness.

"It all went off without any hassle. During the day we had a young couple approach us, asking us what we're doing. They're homeless, they're on the waiting list to get into a hostel, and they're actually sleeping in a tent in Newry at the minute.

"Every year we've always made sure to have a sofa present on Hill Street, and that's to highlight that sofa-surfing's a type of homelessness and to basically break the stigmas and stereotypes of homelessness," said Rebekah.

Hailing the philanthropic, good-hearted nature of local people, Rebekah said: "For the last three years we've come up with food packages, which are donated to Newry food bank, The Simon Community and the Salvation Army.

"We were quite successful, once again, the people of Newry are incredibly charitable, that's one thing that has to be said for them.

Rebekah said that a key element of the sit-out was debunking myths, stereotypes and perceptions of homeless people, many of whom become situationally dispossessed through no fault of their own

"You'd hate to think of it - but its the case, and it happens time and time again - that along with the tag of homelessness comes so many other labels that have quite negative connotations where, realistically, that's a perfectly normal young person who just needs someone to give them a chance so they can get back on their feet again.

"Nationally it's an epidemic and it's only getting worse. It's crazy how widespread it is. Everyone can be affected and one thing can change in your life and you find yourself spiralled into it," added Rebekah.

The youth worker feels that homelessness is much more omnipotent than people realise.

 She added, "In Newry, I believe there's a lot more of it than people would realise. Just because people aren't lying in shop-fronts in sleeping bags, very visibly, doesn't mean it's not happening. Newry does have a high percentage of deprivation.

"Speaking to young people and getting to know them a bit, when they do open up, there's so much going on behind the scenes that people don't realise, and that's the whole reason for the event, basically just to raise awareness on that," said Rebekah.


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