“Don’t forget NI’s hidden homeless”

The ‘hidden’ homeless will be highlighted in a UTV Live piece tomorrow night (FRI July 12). The issue is being tackled by Northern Ireland Fixers in their latest campaign to work with young people.

Matthew Smyth
Matthew Smyth who will feature on tomorrow night’s UTV Live Fixers

This Ballymena-based Fixers campaign is challenging the misconception that life on the streets is the result of addiction to drink or drugs but can happen to anyone, anytime through a variety of circumstances.

Matthew Smyth, 22, who volunteers with a homeless shelter will share his experience on UTV Live, shedding light on what is becoming Northern Ireland’s ‘Hidden Homeless Shelter’. Working with Fixers, the national movement set up to work with young people to ‘Fix’ the future, this campaign will highlight some of the reasons why people become homeless.

“Homelessness is a big problem for young people,” said Matthew. “Despite what people may think, not all homeless people are drug addicts or alcoholics. In fact, many young people become homeless because of family breakdowns and financial problems.

“Just because someone is homeless doesn’t make them any less of a person than anyone else.”

Working with Fixers, Matthew – who volunteers at a community drop-in shelter on Sandy Row, Belfast – is planning to make a short film to take to community groups and schools to challenge perceptions about homelessness.

“More and more we are seeing younger, semi-professional and previously what we would have seen as middle-class people, who are falling into the homeless bracket,” said Simon Community team leader, Kerry McWilliams.

“My experience is that it is a huge problem and I don’t think any of us are going to know exactly how big it is because young people are dealing with it in their own way, quite creatively. They might be living in a tent or they might be staying on various sofas through the week, and as a result they’re not showing up on any statistics. They are an invisible set of victims.”

The Fixers movement aims to recruit more than 2,300 Fixers in Northern Ireland by March 2016. How each Fixer tackles an issue is up to them – as long as they benefit someone else.

Now, with funding £7.2 million from the Big Lottery Fund, Fixers aims to work with a further 20,000 young people over the next three years. The programme will be on UTV at 6pm.

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