How family breakdown can leave local teens without a home

Published: 11 Oct 2012 13:000 comments

"MOST people don't think young people could be homeless or at risk of becoming homeless in Fermanagh -- they just don't think that kind of thing could happen here."

Clare McClintock.<<

Those are the words of Participation Worker for Action for Children, Clare McClintock from Fermanagh.

Through her job, though, she sees all too often that the reality is somewhat different.

"Service users have said if they were asked the question: 'What would you have done without Action for Children?' their answer would have been 'I would be lost', 'I would be dead' or 'I would be in prison'. It's scary to think it, but that's the reality of it all," she says.

With offices in Enniskillen and Omagh, the voluntary service currently has a caseload of 42 young people, aged from 16 to 21, who are either homeless or at risk of becoming so.

And the number of referrals to the local Floating Support Service has steadily increased year on year since it was first introduced in 2006.

"More recently we have received a lot of self-referrals from young people themselves," she says, "There have been times when people come to us and say 'I have no where else to go'."

Although the most shockingly visible form of homelessness is of someone 'sleeping rough', Clare is quick to point out that there are many other experiences too.

"Everyone has a stereotypical view of a homeless person being someone sleeping out on the streets with a bucket beside them to collect money -- but that's not always the case. Homelessness can be someone having no option but to crash on a friend's sofa -- this is still technically seen as homelessness. Just because you don't see them sitting in a door way doesn't mean they are not homeless."

She experienced for herself just what it would be like to sleep rough in Belfast through a charity fundraising event for Action for Children last Friday night.

Held for the first time in Northern Ireland, Byte Night's fundraiser is aimed at raising as much money and awareness as possible to combat the problem of homelessness for young people across the UK.

But for Clare it was a stark insight into what some of the young service users she works with have sadly faced in the past.

"When we arrived in Belfast we were given cardboard boxes and waterproof bags for shelter for the night," she explains, "That really brought it home - this is what so many young people have to face.

"There are people who are homeless out there, and it is not just in Belfast. Friday night was so cold, I had a lot of layers on but I still felt it. It made me realise how someone who is homeless must feel -- they don't have the luxury of preparing ahead for a cold night.

"I was so tired the next morning and hungry but the thing is, I was going home and was able to have a shower. A homeless person has to sleep rough every night."

According to Clare the typical stereotype, held by many, of a homeless person can sometimes prevent people from coming forward for help.

"They may have experienced temporary homelessness or they have been sleeping on their friend's sofa. They feel alone because they have lost their support network on a temporary basis -- it is very difficult and very daunting for them. And they are afraid of being stigmatised."

Clare is the first Participation Worker for Action for Children in Northern Ireland.

She and the rest of the team on the Floating Support Service work with children aged 16 to 17 who are at risk of homelessness and care leavers aged from 18 to 21.

According to her one of the main reasons for young people being classed as 'homeless' is as a result of a family breakdown.

She says that in many cases, referrals are made through Social Services or the Housing Executive.

"Our main aim is to reduce the level of homelessness. When a young person has had a breakdown in the family, we would act as a mediator to try to build that relationship up again. But in some cases, it has been assessed that it is just not safe for them to be at home.

"Through our team of five floating support workers and myself our aim is to find suitable and affordable accommodation in a community of the young person's choice.

"We promote independent living skills and support the young people though programmes such as the Barclays Money Skills programme and 'Key to the Door', accredited by the Open College network, which focuses on home matters -- simple things like eating well, how to shop for food, DIY.

"We also help service users with legal matters and develop their skills to be able to maintain tenancy. We help them to understand the cost of living independently.

"And on Saturdays we run activities to help decrease the feeling of isolation. If they are feeling down we have a bit of craic with them.

"We also give them the opportunity to have their voice heard," says Clare, "Quite often they have never had that opportunity before and that in itself can be quite empowering for them.

"We are the only Floating Support Service for young people aged 16 to 17 years olds. While a lot of other groups would work with people who are 18 years plus, in most cases they will be low risk young people. But what we have found is that it is often the high risk young people who need our help most -- high risk in that they could be a risk to themselves, they have suffered drug and/or alcohol misuse, are pregnant or are engaging in risky behaviour."

Clare has appealed for those who haven't yet sought help to come forward.

"There is a lot of support available, and we are willing to help and do our best. People have a misconception that someone who is homeless is involved in trouble in some way. But I can't say anything but nice things about the service users we have. They are an amazing group of people and we are there for them, always.

"In times of crisis or need, they know they can pick up the phone and we will be there for them.

"We run a 24 hour service, so we are always there at the end of the phone. Our Floating Support Workers will go to the crises no matter what time of the day or night it is and we will even find emergency accommodation for that night if need's be," she adds.

For more information on Action for Children's local Floating Support Service, contact 028 8225 9495.

Jump to first paragraph.

Comments

comments powered by Disqus

Get more stories from our Roundup section

23 Apr 2014 22:30 • Editorial Department

In tomorrow's Impartial Reporter:

The phone call no mother wants as Ruby Brown tells of the moment she learned of the death of son Richard in a motorbike accident. Read her in-depth and moving interview.

Social: Comments0 comments

23 Apr 2014 21:30

Late Breen strike sends Town into final

Enniskillen Town Utd came from a goal down to book their place in the final of the Impartial Reporter Mulhern Cup with a 2-1 win over Kesh at Ferney Park tonight.

Social:

23 Apr 2014 15:35

Car stolen in "creeper burglary"

A car was stolen during a so-called “creeper burglary” at Raceview Court near the Cornagrade Road in Enniskillen.

Social:

23 Apr 2014 13:15

Castle Archdale hosts Dawn Chorus event

LOCAL people are invited to meet at Castle Archdale at 5am on Saturday, May 3, to listen to the birds welcome the new day in fine voice.

Social:

23 Apr 2014 11:30

Radio DJ includes Fermanagh stop in marathon challenge for charity

A radio DJ will bring her fundraising marathon challenge to Fermanagh this June in aid of Cancer Research UK.

Social:

23 Apr 2014 09:30

Arsonists responsible for 15 gorse fires since beginning of April

Arsonists are being blamed for starting around 15 gorse fires in the Garrison and Belcoo area since the beginning of April.

Social:

22 Apr 2014 17:00

Mallards slip into bottom two

Ballinamallard United slipped into the bottom two in the Danske Bank Premiership on goal difference following today's 2-2 draw with Dungannon Swifts at Ferney Park.

Social:

22 Apr 2014 15:00 • Editorial Department

Opinion - Kylie Noble - Why I’m excited to vote for the first time

The rites of passage of growing up vary from person to person but throughout my own life events such as turning 13, my first formal, my GCSE and A level results, my 18th birthday (and my first and to date only hangover that followed), getting into university and moving away from home are just a few which I imagine are pretty common landmarks among my generation.

Social: Comments0 comments

22 Apr 2014 15:00

Rucksacks stolen in car break-in

A car was broken into at Navar Forest near Derrygonnelly last night (Monday).

Social:

22 Apr 2014 13:00 • Rodney Edwards

Stormont Files: Farm Watch designed to prevent rural crime - O'Neill

FARMERS in Fermanagh are being encouraged by the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) in Enniskillen to take part in the Farm Watch Scheme, an initiative endorsed by Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill.

Social:

22 Apr 2014 12:00

Lisnaskea home attacked

A house in Lisnaskea has been attacked.

Social:

22 Apr 2014 11:00 • Rodney Edwards

Stormont Files: Litter droppers approach MLA to quash £75 fine

A NUMBER of people in Fermanagh have been fined £75 for “dropping a cigarette butt or a sweet paper” on the street, according to UUP MLA Tom Elliott.

Social: Comments0 comments

22 Apr 2014 09:00

Motorist knew insurance shown to police had been cancelled

A 47-year-old factory worker has admitted fraudulently using a certificate of car insurance by showing it to the police, knowing it had been cancelled.

Social:

21 Apr 2014 22:30

Man(20) took father's car without consent

A 20-year-old man thought he was being “sensible” when he got behind the wheel of a crashed car to drive it home.

Social:

21 Apr 2014 19:00

Jail sentence for driver caught without insurance four times in two weeks

A 30-year-old car dealer caught driving without insurance four times in two weeks despite paying out £3,500 in premiums has been given a jail sentence.

Social:

21 Apr 2014 17:30

Number out of work in Fermanagh fell by 2.4 per cent in March

Unemployment in Fermanagh fell by 2.4 per cent last month.

Social:

21 Apr 2014 15:00 • Meadhbh Monahan

Steering a safe path of expansion through the downturn

Liam Connolly Road Freight (LCRF) provides groupage services (i.e. from single pallet collections to full double-deck trailer collections) for over 300 customers throughout Ireland and the UK each day.

Social: Comments0 comments

21 Apr 2014 13:00 • Rodney Edwards

Irish President is latest to commend work of Enniskillen church leaders

THE work of Enniskillen’s two main church leaders, the Very Rev. Kenneth Hall and Monsignor Peter O’Reilly, has received a warm acknowledgement from yet another head of state.

Social: Comments0 comments

21 Apr 2014 09:00 • Editorial Department

Not against a community centre but not on ‘our doorstep’

“WE are not against a community centre, we just don’t want it on our doorstep.”

Social: Comments0 comments

20 Apr 2014 19:00

'We want to do it for the supporters' - Davy Black

Clogher Valley coach David Black has vowed to make up for their All Ireland Junior Cup Final defeat by winning the Ulster Towns’ Cup for their supporters when they take on Donaghadee at Ravenhill on Easter Monday.

Social: