A North Belfast homeless charity has celebrated ten years of service in North Belfast.

Antrim Road-based Depaul’s Mater Dei services have been providing accommodation and vital support for families experiencing homelessness since November 2006.

A celebration event in Mater Dei was held earlier this week which brought together staff, current and former service users, funders, local stakeholders and businesses in the area.

Kerry Anthony MBE, CEO of Depaul, said: “Since opening our doors in 2006, Depaul’s Mater Dei service has been a keystone of the local community here in North Belfast. Over the past decade, we have worked with 232 families and successfully transitioned 219 families out of homelessness and into their own homes in the community. Most of the families we work with are single-parent households. In total we have supported 282 adults, including 227 females and 55 males, and seen 26 babies born in the service.”

Mater Dei was Depaul’s first family service. They also offer families tools and supports to address their needs, access more permanent accommodation and leave the label of homelessness behind.

They encourage residents to engage in local events and activities, and the support of the community is fundamental. Depaul has developed family services to meet the needs of the residents. When families move on from Mater Dei, they are now able to access Depaul’s Family Floating Support Service, where they are provided with advice and guidance in their new homes.

“Services like Mater Dei are vital, as family homelessness remains a critical issue in Northern Ireland,” added Kerry.

“One-third of households that present as homeless in Northern Ireland are families, with close to 6,000 families presenting as homeless on a yearly basis. Relationship and family breakdown is the number one reason cited for contacting the Northern Ireland Housing Executive as homeless. Homelessness can have devastating and life-long effects on families, particularly children; and it is essential that services like Mater Dei exist to mitigate these effects. We look forward to working with our funders and partners in the community to continue to provide this life-saving service going forward.”