In a most interesting address to the Club Joanne McQuillan, Operating Manager, SOSBus NI explained how SOSBus fits into the strategic plan for Belfast, working with their partners to provide care and support for vulnerable people suffering from poor mental health, substance misuse, risk of homeless or in need of medical care. They provide a safe haven in the heart of Belfast operating 3 60ft bendy buses in constant use between 10.30 pm and 3.00 am every weekend where volunteers provide welfare and medical care in Shaftesbury Square and outside the City Hall and 4 mini-buses which response teams use to bring vulnerable people around the city to the big buses. They are developing partnerships to avoid doubling up on services, working with the system and releasing the PSNI to follow-up other calls and are working with others to get a Purple Flag as a city safe space for tourists. She advised that they particularly cover St Patrick’s Day and 10-15 concerts a year including Belsonic, Culture Night, Custom House Sq. etc. She revealed that St. Patrick’s Day is particularly busy looking after the Holy Land - during the day last year they took 100 calls releasing other services for other tasks.
She revealed that 30,000 come through their buses annually and they help everyone with all variety of issues, many have just got into the wrong crowd or have become isolated from their friends, homeless needing help to find shelter or just feel vulnerable on the streets with the crowds and that 130 people have been volunteering for 8 years or more so they obviously think it’s worthwhile.
They hold various fundraisers during the year such as a Pancake Party and their Annual Golf Day and highlighted that 150 people took part in their “Sleep Out” in Writers Sq. last year with 1000 sponsored. Concluding her well-received address she thanked the Club for its support.