On Wednesday 19 July, Nicola McCrudden and I took a trip to the northwest to visit the North West Methodist Mission and hear more about their work in Derry.
After getting lost (my fault), we were welcomed by Liam Milligan, CEO of the Mission; James Jennings, the manager of their men’s hostel; and Shannon White, one of the team leaders at Clarendon Shelter.
Liam gave us some of the background to the Mission. Founded by the Methodist Church as an outworking of their commitment to social justice, the Mission has been operating in the city for over 80 years. While the services provided to people experiencing homelessness have rightly changed over that time, the commitment to supporting those in this situation has remained unwavering.
The Mission operates three sites in the city: the Clooney Centre, the Men’s Hostel and Clarendon Shelter. The Clooney Centre is where much of the administrative work of the Mission goes on and is where the Methodist congregation meets. The men’s hostel has 41 beds while Clarendon Shelter is a women’s hostel which can accommodate 18 women (including a small number of families). Clarendon Shelter merged with the North West Methodist Mission in 2021.
As the current Chair of our board, we at Homeless Connect have long known of Liam’s commitment to supporting those who are experiencing homelessness and the wider homelessness sector. With the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s been challenging for those charged with leading organisations in the homelessness sector in recent years. Navigating a merger during a pandemic made this even more complex. Though no doubt it was a challenging time, it was apparent from what we saw that under Liam’s leadership the Mission has managed to continue to provide a high-quality service to those they support.
We were then taken around Clarendon Shelter and the Men’s Hostel by Shannon and James. The women who they support at Clarendon have a variety of often complex needs, including experiences of trauma. In some cases, the women will have been victims of domestic abuse. In speaking to Shannon, who has worked at Clarendon since 2019, we got the clear sense that while the work at Clarendon can be challenging at times, it is hugely worthwhile work making a real difference to the lives of these women and their families.
As we went into the men’s hostel we were both struck by the positive atmosphere on the site. As we were shown the facilities, it was obvious to see that James and his staff had an easy rapport with the residents. James has worked for the Mission for over 22 years in a variety of roles, progressing to the role of manager of the men’s hostel in 2019. His experience has clearly equipped him well for what can be a hugely demanding job in supporting men experiencing homelessness.
We are thankful to the North West Methodist Mission for having us. If you want to find out more about the work of the Mission, do check out their website.
This is the latest in Mark’s blog series on his visits to frontline services throughout Northern Ireland.