Belfast Telegraph

Spirit of Christmas: SOS Bus is saved after £43k in funds pledged

By Joanne Sweeney

The SOS Bus crisis service will still be provided on Belfast's streets this Christmas after big-hearted businesses and philanthropists donated £43,000 to keep it going.

The money has been pledged since the Belfast Telegraph revealed a cashflow problem with the charity's operating costs in a story on December 1.

The service - which offers late night help and support to anyone in crisis on the city's streets - faced being wound up by its board if it became insolvent following a funding shortfall of £50,000 this year.

It had been badly hit in the current round of spending cuts, particularly with the loss of £30,000 from the PSNI, given annually since 2007.

However, Joe Hyland, chief executive of SOS Bus NI, said that he had convinced the board that the service was solvent after securing £64,000 in total.

He said: "Ten days ago I had raised £23,000, but I've now got the commitment for £64,000 with £46,000 of that already banked.

"With the extra donations, we are confident of being able to pay our creditors.

"But the situation will be reviewed every three months next year.

"The board has stressed to me that our future, like for all charities in this climate, is bleak as 60% of all charities in the UK are using their reserves or closing, which is a huge number to think about," he added.

Mr Hyland praised the generosity of the 44 businesses and individuals who had given the service the much-needed funds.

"I know that the reputation of this little organisation is far bigger than the organisation itself," he said.

"We are punching well above our weight.

"When I have gone out to speak to people I don't even know about money, they have given the service a glowing report and have readily put their hand in their pockets.

"Asking somebody for £1,000 is a lot of money, but some people have given me £5,000 and £3,000, and I cannot thank them enough for doing this.

"The Belfast Telegraph has played a really important part in helping us and made it easier for me to make an appointment with them to ask for money."

The SOS Bus and its 230 volunteers help to look after people who are incapable of looking after themselves for a variety of reasons,

Wearing distinctive yellow jackets, they provide first aid services and ensure that people get home safely to their families.

Factfile

SOS NI has engaged with more than 221,000 people and given professional medical and caring services to 7,500 people - often in life-saving situations - on the streets of Belfast since it started in November, 2007.

It operates from two sites from 10.30pm up to 2.30am: Dublin Road near Shaftesbury Square every Friday and Saturday night, and every Saturday night outside the Odyssey Arena complex. The number to ring if you or one of your friends needs help is 07901 505 505.

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