First Housing Aid and Support Services Celebrates 20 Years of Making a Difference for Young Parents in the Northwest

Wed, 23 Nov 2022 | News

On Friday 11th November, the Mayor of Derry and Strabane Council Sandra Duffy hosted a celebration event in the Guildhall to celebrate First Housings’ Young Parents Project which has been delivering supported accommodation to very young parents and their children in the Northwest for over two decades.

First Housing Aid and Support Services would like to thank the Mayor and all the staff at council and the Guild Cafe for kindly supporting us with and sharing in the 20th Anniversary celebrations of our Shepherds View Young Parents Project.

It was a special night and wonderful occasion which brought back many memories, rekindled old friendships, and highlighted the many things that are good and honourable about Derry and its people.

A host of Partners from throughout the Northwest came together to celebrate at the event. During the celebration, the Mayor presented an award to the Project Manager Maria Maxwell in recognition of the great work being delivered by the project team for young parents aged 16-25 and their babies. The Mayor commented that Maria “has spent a lifetime working with people who are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless and she has a great awareness of the many challenges homeless people face.”

She further outlined that she has chosen First Housing as the Mayor’s charity for her year in office. It is her ambition to use her time as Mayor to further raise awareness of homelessness.

The Chief Executive of First Housing Aid and Support Services, Kevin Wright, addressed all present. He indicated that Shepherds View, a service managed by First Housing Aid & Support Services, “is a showcase project as to how services can be delivered on a collaborative basis.”

Eileen Best, Director of Services for First Housing, commented that “at Shepherds View we strive to work in collaboration with a broad range of agencies on site. All of us working together can make a difference in the life and outcomes for young parents and their children. Our partners include: Radius, NIHE, Supporting People, The Western Trust, Health Visitors Midwives, PHA, our Homelessness Nurse and Sure Start. We believe that in addressing housing and homelessness it is essential that we look beyond the bricks and mortar. A house without support is just four walls but if you can wrap the support around the person it makes for an all-round better solution in homelessness prevention.”

We were delighted to welcome former staff such as Aileen and John Gilmore, Geraldine Collins, Hazel Halus and Philomena Bradley who all recently retired from their roles at Shepherds View Young Parents Project.  Between them having dedicated and committed nearly 100 years of their lives to guiding and helping others through difficult periods in their lives – providing the necessary directions towards a better path and future.

Remarkably over this 20-year period we have supported over 400 Young parents and their children. This is something which everyone associated with the Young Parents Supported Living Project, and First Housing as a whole, are immensely proud of.

Niall McCarroll, Deputy Manager Shepherds View, stated “it has been a privilege to spend two decades supporting families through difficult and challenging periods, building character and resilience whilst providing hope and strength against a system which places little value on those left behind and largely forgotten.”

First Housing are passionate about the work they do with very young parents and their children to help them to move to independent accommodation in the community. We believe that by working in collaboration with others, wrapping support around the families who come to us, great things can be achieved. The Housing Executive’s new homelessness strategy has a strong focus on early intervention and prevention. At its very core the strategy illustrates that collaborative working by government, statutory and voluntary agencies can ensure that those who are homeless or threatened with homelessness can get support when they need it.  Shepherds View is a shining example of collaboration in action.

We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with the local community and other Community and Voluntary Sector organisations, without whom these celebrations and the last 20 years just wouldn’t have been possible.

The life changing work that takes place within the confines of the Shepherds View Young Parents Project and beyond emphasises once again the importance of the Department for Communities and Housing Executive jointly commissioned, Supporting People Programme.

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