Creating Safe Spaces
In a very powerful and well-received presentation to the Club Monday 10 October Stuart Crawford, Training and Communications Coordinator SOSBus NI highlighted how their volunteers create safe spaces on the streets of Belfast and that they have supported over 400,000 clients since 2007. He pointed out that:
- all volunteers are trained and carry basic First Aid, life-saving Naloxone injections for use if someone has overdosed on opioids, intervene when there are mental health issues (which are rising), provide signposting support suicide de-escalation and transport to A&E
- their yellow coloured buses are iconic parked on the streets of Belfast and their mini buses provide not only a speedy response to help but also can provide transport to hospital or a place of safety which helps to reduce the pressures on the emergency services and freeing up ambulances
- they have night and day programmes
- the night time programme has been a critical part of the work which SOSBus NI has undertaken throughout the years and on Friday and Saturday nights they are at Shaftesbury Square from 10.30pm-3.30am – the longer and later hours were introduced with the later opening of bars and nightclubs so they can meet the needs of those who are needing assistance or trying to get home safely
- their day time programme is new and Monday to Friday 2pm-6pm they engage with those who maybe are homeless or who have addictions and/or mental health problems providing welfare support to anyone who needs it and also lending an listening ear to anyone that is struggling providing a friendly face to see and a safe place to be
- SOSBus NI also cover many music festivals and events (16 in June and 17 in July) providing welfare support making sure people stayed safe and got home safely
- they also have an active schools programme for 4th years (15/16 year olds) upwards to tell them of the work they do and that they are not against them enjoying themselves but SOSBus NI are there on the ground to help them stay safe; he stressed that they discuss alcohol and drug misuse and aim to “prepare not to scare” making sure that people can make wise, informed and sensible decisions; he particularly highlighted that reducing alcohol abuse could save £900m a year releasing well needed funds and drug use is becoming more and more prominent
- noted that they don’t work alone but with different partners who also have people on the ground in specific areas
Stuart particularly recommended their 5 point plan for getting home safely and asked members to pass it on to sons, daughters and grandchildren.
He highlighted that there is a place for everyone at SOSBus NI as people can help in many ways: by volunteering during the day or at night, speaking to groups and fundraising and stressed that the volunteers don’t judge they just help and their services are needed now more than ever across the city of Belfast and while there is a need they aim to help where they can and make a difference, no matter how small that may be.
He concluded by asking members to note their emergency number, carry it about with them and to phone it if they are aware of someone on the streets of Belfast needing help - not necessarily needing an ambulance but just a welfare check. He declared that they are proud to have interacted with 400,000 people, they can’t solve things for everyone but if they help just one person then their work is worth it!
President Steven thanked him for his address and for all their work on the ground giving dignity to people in need which was such a needed service and that the Club would continue to maintain its close association.
PP Maurice Brooks advised he had been on the SOSBus NI Board since 2014 and that it has changed over the years reflecting the need on the streets and from an organisation relying entirely on voluntary subscriptions to one supported by multi organisations such as the Public Health Authority and Department of Justice and recommended that it would be good for Rotaract to be involved. Doris Houston noted that she was a past volunteer and that it was a wonderful organisation, the money was well used and she had made friends for life.