North Belfast News - Community in Focus
Formed in 1844 in response to the crisis of the Great Famine, the Society of St Vincent de Paul has grown to be the largest voluntary charity in Ireland.
Their mission is simple – to eliminate the causes of poverty, alleviating its effects on individuals and families. In North Belfast, the charity’s Northern Region office is based on the Antrim Road, home to a dedicated team which runs the office.
Pauline Brown is Regional Manager of Society of St Vincent de Paul charity here and she explained more about the charity’s history and work in North Belfast.
“St Vincent de Paul is an all-Ireland charity and as Regional Manager I am responsible for the day-to-day strategy, managing staff and providing training and support,” she said.
“As a long-established charity, our work in 2018 is just as important now as it was all those years ago. We get around 1000 referrals a month from people within the local community.
Poverty is at its highest in recent years. People are really struggling to make ends meet with the cost of living on the rise. North Belfast is one area of high deprivation and quite often we are working with local people who are struggling with things like paying bills and putting food on the table for their families. Our process is simple – you can lift the phone and ask for help before giving a broad outline of your circumstances. Clients are then assigned a confidential home visit when each person or family will be helped accordingly.”
The charity’s local shop is also located nearby on the Antrim Road and has established itself as the flagship store in Belfast. “The shop is huge and really is one of our most-used and popular stores in the north,” added Pauline.
“As with most charity shops, we are totally dependent on donations. We offer everything from affordable and quality clothing to school uniforms, furniture and household essentials like a washing machine, fridge, freezer and a cooker. People are amazed at the depth of the shop – there is plenty to choose from and
every chance of grabbing a bargain. It is a community hub for people to meet and have a bit of craic at the same time.”
In addition to providing direct assistance to those in need, caring for the homeless, providing social housing,and other social support activities, the Society promotes community self-sufficiency, enabling people to help themselves.
Any assistance offered by the Society is given in a nonjudgemental spirit, based on the needs of the individual or family seeking help.
The charity also provides respite and short breaks in Newcastle, County Down, for those in need, with local people invited to avail of this service. Looking further at the charity’s work in North Belfast, Pauline believes much more work is needed to help local people.
“We don’t see how North Belfast could thrive or even exist without the services of ourselves. Our service is unique. There are no boundaries and we assist with people from every community. Everyone is treated in a nonjudgemental way. We are well embedded in the community of the North Belfast but there is much more work to be done.”