The theme for the 400th anniversary is “to welcome the stranger.” In my present ministry I am fortunate to have many opportunities to welcome the stranger whether it’s someone who has been living on the streets of Belfast and have come to our hostel or who has come from another country and have found themselves homeless.
When Depaul International came to Ireland in 2002 I became a member of the Trustee Board and have been on it since then. In 2005 they came to Belfast. When I retired from school I became a full time volunteer with the organisation.
Most of my time is spent visiting the three hostels in Belfast, two family hostels for young homeless mothers and a “wet” hostel for homeless alcoholic men and women. In the latter I spend many hours chatting and listening to the residents, who through no fault of their own have lost family, home and friends. I visit them in hospital or prison and organise religious services at various times of the year and when a resident dies.
Fortunately, many residents get their own flats and I visit them regularly or meet them in town for coffee. Loneliness is a real problem for someone who moves from a hostel and befriending them is very necessary. They also have my mobile number and can ring for a chat at any time. Occasionally I visit the projects in Dungannon and Derry.
My life is very fulfilled and I count myself lucky to be part of Depaul, their Philosophy of Care statement reads:
We are glad you are here.
In this place you can take steps towards a better future.
You will lead the way.
We will ask, listen and help.
We will work and walk with you.
I hope I make our service users feel welcome wherever they have come from.