Hostel blaze a major blow says Lord Mayor
A fire that extensively damaged a hostel run by the famous East Belfast Mission - recently visited by the Queen - was described as a "major setback" by the Lord Mayor.
A teenager was taken to hospital yesterday after escaping from the blaze at the hostel on the Newtownards Road in the city. He had to jump out of the first floor window of Hosford House when the fire took hold.
Fire crews responded to an emergency call at 5pm. They managed to stop the fire spreading to other properties but the hostel sustained extensive smoke and water damage.
Alternative accommodation will now have to be found for around a dozen residents who had been staying in the building.
Hosford House is a 22-bed direct access hostel for homeless people.
The EBM was founded in 1985 to engage in community development and service in the Newtownards Road area.
In March the Queen, accompanied by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Shaun Woodward, were guests of honour at the East Belfast Mission.
There they heard details of the Skainos project, a £20m two-acre urban regeneration programme which will be located on the existing Mission site.
In 2003 President Mary McAleese visited the East Belfast Mission on her first official visit to east Belfast.
The EBM was developed out of the work of Newtownards Road Methodist Church, whose history of community engagement stretches back to 1826. It is the oldest and one of the largest community organisations in the area, with a staff team of 54 and a volunteer team of more than 60 people.
Belfast Lord Mayor and east Belfast councillor, Jim Rodgers, said the blaze was a major setback to the great work of the community facility.
"The can cater up to about 20 people both male and female and is a very valuable community project," he said.
"This is a major blow and a setback to the tremendous work that the Mission does.
"They are involved in job creation schemes, they also work very closely with the elderly. They do a lot of outreach work.
"Over the years it has become well known throughout the community and is highly respected.
"I've heard that the fire will affect services for at least four weeks."
Mr Rodgers added: "However the people in east Belfast are very resourceful and I am sure the centre will be fully up and running very soon."