Providing the people of East Belfast with building blocks to realize better futures and opportunities for themselves.
Describe the need affecting community
Our work is based in the heart of East Belfast on Newtownards Road, which is one of the poorest areas of Northern Ireland. 15% of the population live in households in which income is below 60% of the national average. 30% of the working age population are employment deprived and 49% of families are in poverty.
Northern Ireland is in midst of unprecedented challenges in household budgets with the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in society being the most affected. Home energy costs have increased and consumer price inflation is rising; Benefits in real terms are at their lowest since 1985.
The four electoral wards surrounding East Belfast Mission, are all in the top 30 most deprived wards in Northern Ireland. In the area in which we are based, up to 46% of working age people are economically inactive and two thirds live in rented accommodation. Work qualifications are low and unemployment and lack of self-esteem are rife.
Coming out of COVID and the cost of living crisis have coalesced to create severe vulnerabilities for individuals and families who exist on income below the poverty line. These include increased costs for food, electricity and heating, a benefits system that isn’t always fit for purpose and short-term crisis e.g., the appliance breaks down. These all come together so that families suffer from food poverty and have very difficult choices to make – to eat or heat. Therefore, we have noted a significant increase in demand for Top Up Gas and Electricity Cards, food vouchers, and from our own stock of food, people looking for help.
How will this Advance project help to address the need?
We aim to relieve these difficulties and transform and renew our community by offering a range of services to support those in our community who need our help. The work of East Belfast Mission is to bring the light of Christ to all who feel themselves to be in the “dark” – because of addictions, unemployment and financial issues, and broken relationships. As part of God’s mission, we continue to reach out into our local community, offering God’s love in practical ways. Here are some of the projects and services we provide:
Turas, our community education program, has a range of classes to suit all levels, including online options, starting in September 2023. Other classes may be introduced later in the year. Learner’s benefit from a becoming part of a community, making new friends and having a regular place to come and speak Gaeilge, our Celtic language also referred to as Gaelic.
Hosford Homelessness Services has over 25 years of experience providing services to people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. Our aim is to create a society where everyone has a place to call home. Our mission is to provide accommodation and support to enable people to break out of homelessness, maintain independence and realise their potential. We provide homeless prevention services supporting 60-80 people each week. 95% of the people we support maintain their independence.
Our employability team offers one-to-one support to provide clarity, an action plan, forward, focused thinking, or signposting, as well as access to volunteering and employment linked to an individual’s skills and goals and on-going support. Clients also receive additional support for childcare and travel.
The East Belfast Mission Care Counseling service has been established for over 10 years. Our experienced counsellors and therapists strive to create a warm, safe and personal space for clients to explore difficult thoughts and feelings and support them in their journey to find solutions to their difficulties.
The East Belfast Mission Superintendents Fund is a vital resource within our community, dedicated to assisting those in need, particularly in the context of gas and electricity top-ups. This fund plays a crucial role in providing financial support to individuals and families who may be facing financial hardship and struggling to meet their energy expenses.
Lastly, we provide community projects, including women’s groups, Children’s Fusion and Aspire Groups, senior lunches, Mums and Tots, Friendship Circle, Adults Drop-in, along with church services and Bible study groups.
Describe the primary goal of the project
The three core aims at the heart of East Belfast Mission’s work are:
- Congregational Life: To be the heartbeat of East Belfast, grow deep roots in the local community and effectively share the Christian faith.
- Serve the Community: To engage effectively with the local community and to develop services that continually evolve to meet changing needs.
- Excellence: To ensure that all aspects of the mission work together to deliver services of the highest standard, as well as continuously improving.
Describe the change you would like to see in the community as a result of this Advance project
Our vision for the future is one in which East Belfast becomes a peaceful and thriving community; and East Belfast Mission is a trusted, inclusive, united and dynamic organisation that effectively meets people’s needs in our community.