Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: SOS bus is a light in the darkness for all

Editor's Viewpoint

In today's paper we reveal that the SOS bus service, which has been doing great work for people in need of assistance, is now facing a crisis in funding and could stop operating by this summer.

It used to receive funding from the Department of Justice, but that was later switched to Public Health Agency funding, which provides only 20 per cent of what is required.

The rest is raised by volunteers, and the situation is becoming critical. This is particularly sad for an organisation and its volunteers who have done such good work over such a long period of time.

The SOS service has helped some 300,000 people during the past decade and it would a huge pity to see it stopped due to lack of funds.

People may take a stern view about the need for such a service, but it is easy to say that young people should have more sense than getting intoxicated by alcohol or other drugs. Of course they should behave more responsibly, but the reality is, however, that these destructive substances are readily available, and when help is needed the SOS service is there to steer young people out of trouble and to bring them to safety.

It is difficult to estimate the number of lives saved and the injuries avoided by this kind of assistance on the streets.

It is safe to say, however, that many parents are grateful for the sterling service provided by the SOS volunteers. Without them, the young people could be in great trouble.

The volunteers also work with some of the homeless, and people in other challenging situations or facing hard times.

They deal with all kinds of incidents, ranging from injuries as a result of fights and falls through drink, but also with people who may have accidentally slipped on ice, and even a cyclist who collided with a taxi.

We often take services like the SOS or the Salvation Army and other night street-helpers for granted, but we would miss them - just as we would miss the hard-pressed ambulance and police services who are on the frontline of help for those in need.

The vital SOS service runs on the goodwill of volunteers, and it should not need to go begging for its important caring work for those in need on our streets on nights when they find themselves in trouble, and there is no one else to help them.

It is time that the greatly-deserving SOS service was given help itself to continue its good work.

Belfast Telegraph

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