On Wednesday April 6, I had the opportunity to visit the in Ballymena alongside our recently appointed Communications Officer, Niall Bakewell. The Lighthouse hostel is a member of Homeless Connect, and has been serving as a provider of temporary accommodation for the last twenty years.
The hostel has twenty beds and provides support to men experiencing homelessness who are aged between 18 and 65. Many of their clients would have complex needs such as addictions and challenges with mental health.
It was inspiring to meet with staff at the hostel and hear about the work they do. The commitment of the staff to supporting the men they work with was obvious to see. It was evident that the staff at Lighthouse deeply care about their work and are willing to go the extra mile to help the men staying at the hostel.
As I spoke to staff about the work of the hostel, I was especially impressed by the willingness of staff to be innovative in terms of the support they provide to those they work with.
Some of the innovations included a new initiative at the hostel to introduce Wi-Fi for residents; the wonderful I Care service providing health services and haircuts to individuals experiencing homelessness in Ballymena ; and excellent examples of effective networking with local statutory agencies and other homelessness sector providers to improve the services provided to those they support.
Like many other homelessness sector providers right across this society, Lighthouse face challenges arising from the failure to provide any uplift to the budget. With rising inflation placing ever more pressure on budgets, the valuable service provided by the Lighthouse hostel could be detrimentally impacted unless additional funding can be found. This would have deeply negative consequences for residents who rely on the support they get from the hostel.
I know that Homeless Connect will continue to strongly advocate for an increase in Supporting People budget. The Homelessness sector as a whole is under enormous pressure and urgently needs additional financial support. It is my hope that our political leaders will listen to the challenges the sector is facing and respond following the election. Failure to act will have real consequences for some of the most vulnerable who live here.
I am grateful to the staff at the Lighthouse Hostel for accommodating a visit and for all the work they do. You can find out more about the hostel on their website and do give them a follow on their Facebook page to keep up to date on the work of the hostel.
Policy and Public Affairs Officer at Homeless Connect
 (unfortunately Covid has led to the temporary closure of the service, but it is hoped that it will return in the near future)