Choice Housing along with their partners at Simon Community NI have unveiled their latest renovation project, an investment of £150K on a supported housing scheme on the Antrim Road, Belfast which provides accommodation for young people aged between 16 and 21 who are leaving care.
The scheme, known as ‘242 Antrim Road’ is owned by Choice and managed by homelessness charity Simon Community. It provides 10 units of accommodation for young people transitioning out of care.
The project, which was led by Simon Community in consultation with existing Service Users, included an extension to provide a much-needed communal space, the refurb included a spacious kitchen and open plan lounge which has been fully equipped with a workstation and IT equipment.
This modern, open, and welcoming space will allow the Service Users to engage and communicate with their peers whilst offering greater opportunity for Support Staff to work with the young people to enhance their independent living skills.
Nicole, a tenant in 242 Antrim Road said,
“Now that the extension is finished, it makes all the months of early morning building work worth it. Before, the place was really cramped but now we can socialise together, take part in cooking activities, and just have fun. Thanks to everyone who helped make this possible.”
Choice Group Chief Executive, Michael McDonnell said,
“As an organisation Choice is committed to maintaining and ensuring the long-term sustainability of all of our housing stock. We understand that the needs of tenants can evolve and with that their living situation needs to adapt.
“Working with Simon Community and tenants at 242 Antrim Road we identified a number of areas that would not only enhance the physical space of the property but would support tenants in their bid for independent living.
“This new space now offers tenants the opportunity to engage more openly with each other, providing more space for facilitating a range of bigger group sessions and the opportunity to socialise and cook together. This all lends to better mental health and wellbeing which is vital for these young people who are looking towards independent living for the first time”.
Speaking about the project, Jim Dennison, Chief Executive at Simon Community NI commented,
“I’m delighted to see the extension of 242 Antrim Road launched in our charity’s 50th year. In the past, 242 Antrim Road had very limited space for young people to meet and take part in group activities but now the extension allows for staff and clients at the project to plan meaningful activities based around the common room and kitchen that will help develop social and independent living skills.
“With thanks to the generosity of funders and the commitment of staff and clients, we have created a legacy space that will not only support the current young residents in the project but also the many young people who will rely on Simon Community in the coming months and years.”
The upgrade work, which took 18 weeks to complete was delivered by contractors, VHL Construction, with funding from Choice and a grant secured through LandAid, the property industry charity, who works to improve the lives of children and young people in the UK who experience disadvantage due to their economic situation.
Simon Community were keen to secure funding to ensure the property could facilitate more open engagement and conversation between the young people, a space that allowed them to develop their skills and confidence.
The Antrim Road scheme offers independent living for young people in need, whether that is due to a breakdown in the family unit, or they have been living in foster care or in a family home.
The Simon Community support team help these young people with day-to-day life skills, including help with managing their financial situation, understanding how they need to budget, including gas and electricity bills and food shopping, cooking, and cleaning.