NEWS — 28 May 2014
Comedian Ed Byrne

Comedian Ed Byrne

By David Hennessy

Ed Byrne, Dara O’Briain and Hal Cruttenden will be among the entertainers for the forthcoming comedy benefit for the New Horizon Youth Centre, the London centre that works hard to keep disadvantaged and homeless young people off the streets.

Directed by Kerry Person of the Year Shelagh O’Connor since 2000, the centre reaches out to vulnerable young people, some struggling with addiction, who may otherwise end up in prison.

This will be the centre’s fourth annual comedy benefit with Ed Byrne once again lending his support to the centre his cousin works at. Jimmy Carr, Al Murray and Mitch Winehouse have supported the centre in past years. Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow returns to MC proceedings. On the night, established performers will be joined onstage by some of the centre’s clients who will perform something they have prepared.

Shelagh O’Connor told The Irish World: “We hope to have a full house on the night.”

Although there were fears two years ago that the centre may have to close, Shelagh says: “I think we’re in a strong position at the moment, we’ve been successful with securing the youth homelessness commission for London so that’s quite a significant chunk of money and currently there’s a few irons in the fire with the lottery and a few other major funders so we’re working away there.

“It’s going quite well, recently there’s been up to 60 young homeless at the centre a day so there’s ongoing need, we’re seeing some young Irish people, young people from eastern Europe and generally from throughout London and the UK. Young homelessness is increasing. Family pressures, poverty, disadvantage- I think young people are kind of the first to suffer and there are issues around welfare and benefit changes that I think work against young people because accommodation costs in London are spiralling yet if you’re not working and on housing benefit as a young person, you get less housing benefit than somebody over the age of 35 so that makes it much more difficult. The cost of accommodation is a problem for everyone in London but if you’re down on your luck and you don’t have the resources, you need a helping hand and there’s a reduced number hostels overall.”

New Horizon Centre director Shelagh O'Connor at work

New Horizon Centre director Shelagh O’Connor at work

Last week, it was reported that more than 50 rough sleepers will lose their beds in central London when two hostels shut after their grants were cut by Westminster council. This is despite figures showing homelessness in London is rising. The two hostels in Greek Street and Great Chapel Street provide support for long-term rough sleepers and drug addicts, had been guaranteed funding until 2015 but were told last month the deal was off. They are expected to close by July.

Shelagh adds: “We are really pleased that over the last few months, The Irish Youth Foundation have put up an emergency fund that we’ve been able to support people when they are in dire need.”

The Kerry Association will be attending and supporting the comedy night.

The New Horizon Comedy Benefit takes place atThe Shaw Theatre, 100-110 Euston Road, London, NW1 2AJ at 7.30pm on Monday June 2.

For more information on New Horizon Centre, you can go to their new look website at: http://nhyouthcentre.org.uk/.

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