A visit to Cloverhill Hostel

by | Aug 1, 2023 | News

A visit to Cloverhill Hostel

L-R Nicola McCrudden, CEO of Homeless Connect Angela McCribben, Support Worker Cloverhill Hostel Nikki McCullough, Support Worker Cloverhill Hostel, Bernadette Donaghy, Manager Cloverhill Hostel, Nikki McConville, Lived Experience Co-ordinator Homeless Connect and Deirdre Canavan, Senior Services Manager at Depaul

On Thursday 6th July, Nicola McCrudden, Mark Baillie and I took a trip to the Colin area to visit Cloverhill Hostel, one of Depaul’s Family Services Accommodation based in Belfast. It was my first visit to one of our member sites since I took on the role of Lived Experience Co-ordinator, I wasn’t too sure what to expect!  We eventually found the site – with the help of Google maps – and I was pleasantly surprised by the area, which was quite built up and busy with people and traffic.

Once buzzed through the gate, the unit itself was welcoming, bright and airy. We were met by Deidre Cavanan, Senior Services Manager for Depaul and Bernadette Donaghy, Cloverhill Manager.

Deidre and Bernadette took us through some interesting history and background of the site.

Services at Cloverhill

Cloverhill was established in 2008, offering 18 self-contained two bedroom apartments and large communal spaces throughout. These spaces include two communal lounge areas on the first floor, an indoor and two outdoor play areas for the children.  Cloverhill has a shared washroom on the bottom floor for residents.

In our conversation, it quickly became clear how important this service is in terms of keeping families together as a unit when they have lost their home. It is also a safe space for the families to take time and prepare for moving into their own accommodation.

Once families are settled into their apartment each family is introduced to their individual case worker.  The case worker and the family co-produce a bespoke plan of action to support the family to settle into their new temporary environment, support them with their housing needs and link the family with an array of community and voluntary support within the community. Case workers will work with the family to develop a support plan that addresses any ongoing issues, the ultimate goal of permanent housing is the end goal.

Referral to this service is usually through the Housing Executive. Like most temporary accommodation facilities here, it is generally operating at full capacity due to the level of demand for services.

We spoke about the challenges facing homelessness services in general and challenges specific to Cloverhill.

What struck me was the compassion both Deirdre and Bernadette had for the people they were working with. This organisation was not solely reacting to the fast-changing issues and needs of those families experiencing homelessness.  They were proactively providing bespoke support. As Bernadette put it in conversation with us, Depaul staff “like to meet people where they are.” With funding sourced from Children in Need, Cloverhill employed a child support worker to work with the families on site.

Making Connections

It was evident that staff at Cloverhill have over many years sought to develop links and connections with the local community. Residents and staff enjoy a healthy relationship with a local care home with children and the elderly often interacting through visits and carol services. Bernadette also sits on local community boards on behalf of the service, ensuring that the service is connected with what is happening in the surrounding area.

It was obvious to see that the endeavours of staff in terms of forging connections have enhanced the experience of residents and their children at the unit, resulting in continuous healthy involvement for those living in the centre in local community events. These kinds of connections do not simply happen but require persistent effort and commitment from staff.

We met Nikki and Angela, two dedicated support workers in the Cloverhill team. They gave us insight into what motivated them to work in the sector and the job satisfaction of knowing you have helped someone in need. In talking to the staff, I was struck by the passion they conveyed for the work they do. These are people who want to make a difference for the benefit of those they are working to support.

“Meeting people where they are”

Bernadette took us to see one of the apartments. For me, this was the most poignant part of the site visit. We met a young lady called Jane* and her baby boy. As I looked around it was obvious all of their basic needs were met in the two bedroom apartment.  When she spoke, it was evident she had a great relationship with Bernadette.

Jane told us she had gone back to study; she was undertaking a foundation level degree to attain a place in a Midwifery/Nursing course. I was moved by her dedication and with the support of Cloverhill, she has the opportunity to pursue this path.

We are very thankful to Cloverhill, in particular to Deidre and Bernadette for allowing us a peek into their very busy day! If you would like to find out more, do check out Depaul’s website and make sure you are following Depaul on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Nikki McConville is Lived Experience Co-ordinator for Homeless Connect

*name changed to protect privacy


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