The Deputy Speaker of the Assembly, Patsy McGlone MLA, recently visited the Apex Living Centre in Derry and expressed his admiration for the work being done there by volunteers and staff.
Mr McGlone, who is also chair of the Assembly’s All-Party Working Group on Construction, recently sponsored an event in Parliament Buildings at which NIHACT’s Building Thriving Communities report was launched.
Having expressed an interest in learning more about the community investment work of housing associations, Mr. McGlone was invited to visit the Apex Living Centre which serves Apex tenants not just in the Foyle area but all over the region including Patsy McGlone’s Mid-Ulster constituency.
Maria McGlynn, Manager of the Foyle Foodbank, made a strong case for the continued need for such a facility especially in the run-up to Christmas.
Apex’s Financial Inclusion Officer, Michael Lyttle, also gave a presentation about the various projects the association delivers including debt and benefits advice, oil-buying clubs and the savings and loan scheme in partnership with Derry Credit Union.
The most inspiring story of the day was when Mr. McGlone heard directly from Apex tenant Peter Moore who was, only last year, a recipient of help from Foyle Foodbank. Peter explained: “When my benefits were messed around I began to run out of money and could hardly gather enough even to buy groceries”.
“I had nowhere else to turn and, although it was hard at first coming to ask for help, the people here were so good and made it so easy for me”.
Peter continued: “Once I got things sorted with my benefits, I was so grateful to the foodbank that I decided to come down and help out myself. I now volunteer nearly every day to help others in the way that I was helped”.
Speaking at the event, Conor Creaney, NIHACT Manager, said: “Community investment is an important area for associations, with more than 25,000 people benefiting from activities such as employment and education programmes, money advice schemes, community facilities and health and wellbeing initiatives”.
He continued: “Successfully building a scheme like this from the ground up is never easy but, with welfare reform and uncertain economic times ahead, these ambitious projects have never been more necessary. We have heard directly from tenants today about the impact this work has had in their lives”.
“There is also a strong business rationale for community investment. When tenants can manage debt, find employment and feel safe and secure in their homes and communities, it has a positive impact on tenancy sustainment, rental income and asset management.”