No-one could ever accuse Belfast Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon of sleeping on the job – even if she did take a sleeping bag with her to an engagement last night!
The city’s first citizen was actually giving her support to a group of young people keen to raise awareness of the plight of the homeless across the city.
Their unusual sleep-out in pouring rain brought teenagers from Ardoyne and the Shankill together in just one of a number of their cross community initiatives.
“These young people are so positive in doing what they can to help those less fortunate, and I am keen to support them in the great work they do,” said the Lord Mayor.
“I am so impressed that neighbours from Ardoyne and Shankill can work together like this to help others. Our youth represent our future – so it is vital that we recognise their contribution”.
Volunteer Youth Leader with ‘Our City Project’, Paul McCusker, said the teenagers from Ardoyne and Hammer youth clubs are passionate about helping those sleeping rough on the streets of their city.
“Raising funds and awareness to help the homeless is an issue they all feel strongly about – especially when they realised that on any night in Belfast there could be 11 or more people without a roof over their head,” he added.
“We are now working with the Welcome organisation to do what we can to help.”
Conor Largey (17), was among those taking part in last night’s sleep-out, and he says he feels proud that young people are helping to make a difference.
“Being part of these projects and a member of this youth group has turned my life around,” he revealed.
“I admit that a couple of years ago my behaviour was getting out of control, but now I feel really proud that I can make a positive contribution. Helping to tackle issues like homelessness and getting involved in a variety of cross community projects has made me a different person.”
The sleep-out took place in the grounds of Ardoyne Youth Club on Flax Street.