He says his perceptions of the homeless community totally altered after a stint of volunteering with Belfast’s Welcome Organisation – now student Paul Loughran wants as many people as possible to see beyond the stereotypes.
It’s why he’s set up an initiative called Regenerate NI. It’s aim is to release a team of homeless people – passionate about giving back to their community – to regenerate run-down areas. Through the scheme they’ll be trained up, assigned a location – which they will then work to revamp.
“We want to carry out regular regeneration projects & change people’s views of those who are homeless,” Paul explains.
He says those already recruited to the Regenerate NI team are excited about the venture. “They love the idea – we pitched it to them & they are ready & pumped to go – this is going to grow.”
Through the Regenerate NI website Paul is encouraging feedback from the community about locations in Northern Ireland which need a revamp & where this team could come and work. He says all suggestions are welcome.
“We see our project getting bigger and bigger, and making a real difference to everyone involved.”
The project will launch this Saturday at the Welcome Organisation’s Townsend Street drop-in centre. There users of that centre will join with Belfast’s major Mairtin O’Muilleoir to provide it with a lick of paint & general revamp.
“I wanted to get more hands-on with service users,” says Paul “And I was driving past the centre just thinking that needs a facelift.”
For this Belfast student it’s simple: “I want to see Belfast made prettier & see personal development among the homeless who help us – to see them moved towards a stable income and a better future.”