The rain it raineth at Snow Patrol
Inspiration, and before noon on a Saturday, now that is the Belfast I love…always.
Early doors on Saturday, I was invited along to the Welcome Centre, close to the very centre of the city and nestling beside a a peaceline, to meet the volunteers, staff and clients who have made this a byword for quality care and boundless compassion.
Chair Eamon Donaghy and Manager Sandra Moore asked me to pop by to paint the first brushstroke on the centre shutters which are enjoying a facelift thanks to the efforts of volunteers and clients at the Welcome Centre who have come together in a new initiative called Regenerate NI.
In essence, Regenerate NI is teaching skills to homeless people and banding them together in first-class DIY teams. Not only will they be taking on facelift projects across the city but they’ll also be challenging our perceptions of the homeless.
And the users of the centre I met were an enthusiastic and gregarious bunch. And whether from Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Nigeria or just plain old Belfast, they all have a compelling story to tell about their battle to find a safe home and a steady job.
One new friend from South America led me through her 19 year battle to find refuge in these islands; her battle for asylum continues.
I admire the Welcome Centre’s no-nonsense approach and their can-do attitude. Their new premises at Townsend Street caters for 120 clients each day. They come from all parts of the city, as Eamon Donaghy says: “When you’re homeless, you have more on your mind than the religion of the guy next to you.”
The Welcome Centre is proud of its pledge to provide “unconditional support for Belfast’s most vulnerable” and I am proud of them.
Oh yes, and they need £80k in public donations to keep their 26-employee-operation going.
I had a little bit of my own can-do attitude when I pulled on my waterboots on Thursday to join the masses at the Snow Patrol gig at Tennents Vital. 100,000 tickets were sold for the rock jamboree, another boost for the city’s spirit and coffers in the wake of the wonderful World Police and Fire Games which gave us the busiest EVER period for our hotels.
If there’s a better anthem for the Future Belfast than Take Back the City — “I love this city tonight, I love this city always” — it hasn’t been written yet.
Finally, maximum respect to all those in the US and closer to home for your messages of support and solidarity. Go raibh maith agaibh.