Background

In 1909 under the leadership of the Reverend Robert Byers a building was erected in the Dark Lane district of Londonderry. The building was named "The People's Hall". This became a centre for help and friendship for those in need and those socially excluded, as well as a place for worship and recreation. This building was found to be inadequate for the needs of the area and so in 1933 a new "People's Hall" in Barrack Street was built, which included accommodation for homeless men.

The "People's Hall" was an important place of welcome and friendship for many and a home for homeless men. However, the area around the hostel became a place of great civil unrest, with rioting and gunfire a regular occurrence. It became clear that the men could no longer be housed there and so on 2nd February, 1972 the People's Hall was vacated.  In less than a week the Hall was destroyed by fire.

The Methodist City Mission (MCM) spirit was undaunted and within a month a new premises was purchased at 6 Crawford Square to provide support and accommodation for the men. Initially services offered were limited to overnight sleeping facilities. This was soon extended to a hostel service providing full accommodation for 22 homeless men, in a shared living environment. As a service model designed to meet the needs of homeless people in the early 70's, Number 6 was a progressive solution at the time. The hostel was always well supported by its stakeholders and served a huge need in the community.

However, needs change, and the solutions of yesterday must move on to accommodate this. In September 2003, the MCM moved to a new purpose built premises, developed and owned by North & West Housing Ltd, providing 49 units of accommodation to single homeless men, 43 in a shared living environment and 6 in self contained units. The MCM manages the Hostel, including the provision of housing management services, under a management agreement established with North & West and provide support services to residents occupying the premises under a support contract with NIHE.

In this premises all residents have their own rooms with individual washing facilities. The premises is equipped to a high specification with facilities designed to develop life skills and to empower residents to move towards independent living, equipping them with skills to sustain tenancies in their own right.

Through all this development, the MCM Hostel has retained a homely and friendly atmosphere, in which the dignity and respect of the individual is paramount.

    The 75th Anniversary of the Hostel Work

The following tribute is printed in our Annual Report this year as part of our celebrations marking the 75th anniversary of our work with homeless men. This is the heritage we have entered into. This is the giant on whose shoulders we stand. May God continue to bless the work being done in the Hostel, and those who do it.

Robert Byers was born in 1866 in the town land of Drumgahan, Co.Monaghan. Through the influence of godly parents he was led in early days to dedicate his life to Jesus Christ. He went to business in Dublin, where he came under the influence of the Rev.William Maguire, under whose guidance he engaged in active Christian work and was brought into the Methodist Ministry. From the outset Mr.Byers showed a passion for evangelism. He believed in the power of Christ to transform damaged lives, and he never despaired of any man. He had the joy of seeing many lives changed during his long and fruitful ministry. He was an outstanding social reformer and advocate. He showed a genuine and practical concern for the poor and unprivileged section of the community, and by his timely intervention, help and material relief came to the distressed and needy. When he was convinced that a certain end would advance the Kingdom of God he went forward towards the goal undaunted by difficulties. Whilst he left his impress upon every Circuit he travelled, the two main spheres of his ministry were the Londonderry City Mission and the Sandy Row Circuit in Belfast. In both of these centres he was a familiar and beloved figure. As a pastor he had few equals. He never grew weary in the service of his Lord and Master. He inaugurated many building schemes. His dynamic personality appealed to young men, and he introduced many candidates into the Ministry. His last years were spent as minister in charge of Primitive Street Church, Belfast. Here during the present war years he renovated the entire premises and gathered an enthusiastic congregation. Although he had ominous warnings of his physical condition he refused to relax his activities. On 3rd January, 1944, he passed home to God in the seventy-eighth year of his age and the fifty-fifth year of his ministry. We thank God for ever remembrance of him.