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Wednesday, 20 December, 2000, 08:52 GMT
Vigil focuses on homeless

Charity aids the homeless in the province
The problem of homelessness in Northern Ireland is being highlighted with a charity sit-out and vigil on Wednesday.

Organised by the Simon Community, the all-day event aims to focus on the plight of the homeless at Christmas.

It comes in the wake of news that the province's homeless are set to benefit from a major lottery grant announced by the New Opportunities Fund.

The Simon Community has been awarded a grant of 163,459 which will be used to help disadvantaged people learn new skills in information and communications technology.

Homeless sign
Homelessness is being highlighted by a vigil

Six hundred homeless people in Belfast, Derry, Coleraine, Larne and Newry will benefit from the money.

Lindsay Conway, chairman of the Board of Directors for the Simon Community Northern Ireland, said it was vital that homeless people had access to the same training opportunities as the rest of society.

He added: "The programme is all about personal development, training in basic numeracy and literacy skills and ICT and creating employment opportunities for one of the most socially disadvantaged groups in Northern Ireland.

"The Simon Community wants to offer more than accommodation.

"More than 20% of people who present themselves to us as homeless will return to us again. This project will enable us to break that cycle by providing these people with essential lifelong learning skills."

Seven beneficiaries

William, 31, who secured accommodation through the Simon Community in Belfast, said he hoped the project would help him find employment.

He added: "I've just moved into my own flat thanks to the help of staff at the Simon Community. Now I'm hoping to improve my computer skills through this project."

The Simon Community is one of seven groups which will share the grant of 657,648.

Groups set to benefit from the awards include young mothers, ex-prisoners, farmers, long-term unemployed and people with few or no formal qualifications.

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