A Space Everyone Deserves

Hey guys!!! Social Impact Team here 👋

As you may have heard, we’ve teamed up with an organisation here in Belfast, Centenary House. They provide accommodation and support for the homeless, especially those dealing with drug abuse. The aim of this project is to give those experiencing homelessness a space to dream to fulfil their ambitions, to feel empowered, to reignite their passion, and have hope for a better tomorrow. 

Every purchase from this collection will help rebuild and renovate their community room. 

This includes things like:

  • Painting,
  • Refurbishing, 
  • & Requested Appliances

Today, we want to give you a look into the heart of Centenary House by interviewing Ben Rayot the Service Manager. We’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Ben over the past few months and we can say without pause this guy gives 100% every time, he’s a true world changer. We are excited to be giving you an inside look at this amazing organisation! 

Let’s dive in!

Interview Questions: 

  • Who are you?

My name is  Ben, I am from France and moved to Northern Ireland around 23 years  ago. In France I worked for an organisation called Youth for Christ. My wife, who’s from Northern Ireland came to France to work for the same organisation and we met there. I went to the University of Ulster for youth and community work and then moved to Belfast to work in this field for twelve years. On October 1st, 2019 I decided to take a role in Centenary House. I am one of the Service managers for the centre. This requires me to look after a team of 68 staff, 3 managers alongside me. Homelessness always bothered me, not the actual people experiencing it, but how society reacts to it. Working with Centenary House has allowed me to change the perspectives of homelessness. 

  • Summarise who the Centenary house is, and what you guys do…

The Centenary House has 68 beds for short, medium, and long term accommodations for men. We have 12 residential flats, and when we know some of the service users are capable of looking after themselves we give them the opportunity to look after their own place. We also offer our crash bed unit where people who come off the street can have a place to stay for three days then we help them find a suitable place to stay for a longer term.  We try our best to make this place feel like a home to them. 

  • What does homelessness look like in Belfast?

When trying to understand homelessness we must understand that there isn’t one profile. You have people stuck in cycles of behaviour, people with conventional lives then mental health issues cause them to lose their job,  and even people being rejected.  The issue of homelessness in Northern Ireland is no different than the issue in New York, or than it is in France. In order for us to understand this we need to start getting over our misconception of homelessness.  It's about taking time to speak to people and find out their story.              

  • What inspired you to work with this demographic?

Social justice and poverty have always been close to my heart. Part of my family weren’t from France, they were from Armenia and in the mass genocide in Armenia some of my family were forced to move. It wasn’t until years later I realised my family members had to go through being displaced, and this is something that can happen to any of us.  

  • What is the biggest impact with working with these individuals?

The biggest impact we can have is stickability. We make sure these individuals know that we are there for them. We make sure our service users are treated as you should be treated and consistency makes a difference. We’ve had service users become employees, and we are big believers in giving second chances to people. Others have given me second chances in the past, and that remains really important to me. I want to be able to show the guys here as well that everyone deserves a second chance. We want to teach these guys there's a light at the end of the tunnel. 

  • What are you excited about for this change in the communal room?

We are excited to see this space turn into a homey feeling. Creating a place of safety , relaxation, a place where you can have a good laugh, a place where you cry and share your pain with others. The hope is to create a room where our service users can associate feelings with it.  We want it to have a feeling - a space that everyone deserves. 

  • How can the guest get involved and why is it important to get them involved as well?

It's easy for us to assume what these individuals want or what they may like for this space, it's not until you ask and get them involved they can properly make full use of the space. The service users want to be involved, in a recent project with one of our staff rooms three of them volunteered to paint the room. Being able to work on a project helps them keep busy and motivated. It's also the perfect opportunity to have open conversations and get to know our service users more. 

  • Why is it important to have a space to call their own? 

It is important to have a space to call your own because it allows you to think, it allows you to reflect, it allows you to get away from what's going on around you without it resulting in taking any substances, it allows you to relax, it allows you to DREAM. 

Final thoughts:

With this drop we wanted to give back to our home city by creating a lasting giving product that will provide a space to dream for those experiencing homelessness.

The result? A healthy environment for people to feel safe, dream and thrive!

THANK YOU for all your support and we cannot wait to share with you guys more updates with our new Dream Project.

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