An Armagh-based outreach group that offers advice and practical help to people in need has said that the need amongst vulnerable people in the city has increased “more and more”.
The Armagh food outreach team was initially launched in the city in October 2021.
Now, the group hope to carve their own future in the area, as they plan to branch out independently of the wider Newry group.
Aislinn Grant, the team leader for Armagh, described the group as a “signpost service”, directing those in need to organisations that can offer assistance.
“If anybody popped up homeless, we would be able to help them with the essentials, whether it be sleeping bags, tents, food, flasks or torches etc,” Aislinn said.
“People want help and we see ourselves as an avenue. It’s about identifying people and identifying their needs.”
At the outreach table, they offer a hot meal, alongside sandwiches, fruit, biscuits and tea and coffee. They also try to identify needs of families, harnessing the power of Facebook and the generosity of the local community to help point vulnerable people to help.
“If someone is in need of something, we only have to ask on Facebook and people fall over themselves to give to us, so it’s been really great,” she added.
Aislinn, who had been involved with NHTH for eight years, says that the outreach has been going strong since its launch in Armagh, noting the tremendous support given from local people and businesses.
However, since its inception, she has noticed the need in the area becoming greater, admitting that she was initially “blind” to the levels of homelessness in Armagh.
“There are lots of homeless people in Armagh,” she said. “They’re in places you wouldn’t believe. They’re in cars, tents, sheds and garages. There are also a lot of sofa surfers.
“We have a lot of vulnerable families coming up now with the cost-of-living crisis as well. We have people from all walks of life. Since October 2021 I would say it has increased more and more.
“We have a lot of new people coming out of the cracks asking for help and reaching out.”
Recounting a recent example of the group’s work, she said: “A man came to our attention that had travelled here from London on a job promise. The person never met him here so he had been sleeping out for four nights.
“All he needed was to go home, so after asking on Facebook for help, a few people came together to help him with his fare. We were able to book him on a boat home and cover his bus and train fares and food.”
Aislinn added: “Can I give a heartfelt thank-you to everyone who has helped. It’s very much a team effort from all our volunteers. They are absolutely fantastic.
“I also couldn’t do it without my 12-year-old old son Danny, who is a student at St Patricks Grammar. He does most of the work organising equipment, flasks and tables into my car every Friday after school.”