The dedication and commitment of housing associations and care staff during the COVID-19 pandemic has been celebrated this week at a Housing Heroes event in Northern Ireland.
The housing sector and MLAs (Member of the Legislative Assembly) from across the board came together at Parliament Buildings in Belfast to recognise the work of six Housing Heroes.
Saluting the work of housing heroes from across Northern Ireland in recent months, Ben Collins – chief executive of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA) – was joined by a number of housing associations and care workers from across the region.
One of those was Nicole Payne, a Clanmil care assistant who forewent seeing her daughter for three months so that she could continue to safely work with older residents at Gibony House in Belfast.
Ben Collins said: “Our Housing Heroes initiative recognises the huge dedication and contribution that housing staff and tenants across Northern Ireland made and continue to make to their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many in our sector isolated from their own families so they could continue live in and care for those in care homes and sheltered schemes.
“Other colleagues ensured that elderly and those shielding were not left alone and were supplied with food, medicine, and other essentials.
“Their stories are multiple, but the fact is that hundreds of housing heroes across Northern Ireland stepped up and cared for thousands of people during the worst of the pandemic, and I want to say thank you to each of them.”
NIFHA represents the region’s 20 housing associations which, between them, provide over 53,000 quality social and affordable homes alongside care and support services.
The housing heroes featured at the launch were:
Andrea Harrison – Andrea works for Radius Housing and is a scheme co-ordinator at Glen Fold and worked throughout lockdown with all tenants ensuring they had access to food, care packages and kept their families updated during the long periods of isolation.
Ann Davis – Ann is a Choice Housing tenant at Orchard Avenue, Newtownards, who made sure that other tenants received their prescriptions, shopping and other essential items. She helped those who lacked digital skills keep up-to-date with help and assistance and provided friendship and emotional support to all.
Catherine Lusby – Catherine is Apex Living Centre Manager and was instrumental in developing new ways of working at the Apex Community Supermarket. This involved taking shopping orders and working with volunteers to pack and delivery these vital food and care packages.
Claire McKeefry – Claire is a Rural Housing tenant who lives in the Castlewellan area, who continued to work as a Classroom Assistant in a local hub school, which was set up specifically to support keyworkers and their children throughout the COVID-19 lockdown. Claire took on this role recognising the risks involved but put the needs of local keyworkers and their children first, in an effort to support those families struggling to manage childcare whilst working on the frontline.
Jonathan Morrow – Jonathan is a maintenance technician at Clanmill who provided essential maintenance services and repairs to households across his region during the pandemic. He delivered key supplies including sanitiser and ICT material to staff across NI so that they could continue to provide vital services off-site.
Nicole Payne (mentioned above)
This week, Housing Heroes will recognise the work of these and other Housing Heroes across Northern Ireland.
Main image: Housing Hero Nicole Payne and daughter and NIFHA chief executive Ben Collins
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