A Gwynedd homelessness charity which has seen its workload rocket by 2500 per cent since its foundation almost 40 years ago has received a special award.
GISDA, based in Caernarfon, were presented with the Welsh Language Champions trophy by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones at his annual Community Awards at the Kinmel Manor Hotel, Abergele.
The social enterprise organisation, which provides support and opportunities for vulnerable people aged between 14 and 25 in Gwynedd, were nominated for the award by the Commissioner’s deputy, Ann Griffith, for their work in Welsh – and English – in steering youngsters away from a life of crime.
GISDA – it stands for Grŵp Ieuenctid Sengl Digartref Arfon – Young, Single, Homeless Group of Arfon – which dats back to its formation in the 1980s in Caernarfon.
GISDA Head of Services Gethin Evans said: “We were founded in 1989 to help deal with a homelessness emergency of 12 people – almost 40 years on and we deal with almost 300 people a year.
“But we don’t just deal with homelessness issues and to get this kind of recognition is amazing and especially as over 60 per cent of our service users are Welsh language so it is vital that we can support them in the language they feel most comfortable in.
“People are referred to us by Social Services but they don’t have to come, it’s voluntary, so it is a positive that they do.
“We do a lot of work with young people, not just on homelessness, but also on drug and alcohol misuse and on encouraging people to get into training and being equipped for the world of work because that makes it less likely they will become involved in crime.”
Ann Griffith, who visited the GISDA centre in Blaenau Ffestiniog, said: “I was very impressed by the work that they do in supporting young people in a number of different ways.”
“This vital support was delivered with ease in Welsh and the drop-in service I visited also embraced English speakers.
“It was encouraging to listen to the young people who when they first turned to GISDA may have had complex needs and it was evident that they had taken the opportunities given to boost their communication and social skills to equip them for independence, building relationships and fulfilling work.
“Having services available in both languages makes it easier for young Welsh speakers to cross the doorstep to ask for much needed support in the language in which they feel most comfortable.”
Commissioner Jones, a former police inspector, felt it was important to recognise the efforts of often unsung heroes in the community.
He said: “One thing all our winners have in common is that they make North Wales a better and safer place to live and work.
“There are many selfless people who do a lot of good in the community by helping North Wales Police and these silent workers go way beyond anybody else to make a contribution and ensure their communities are safe.”