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City homelessness summit after three deaths in fortnight

By Allan Preston

Published 19/02/2016

Anti-homelessness groups have held a crisis meeting after the deaths of three men in Belfast over the past two weeks (picture posed)
Anti-homelessness groups have held a crisis meeting after the deaths of three men in Belfast over the past two weeks (picture posed)

Anti-homelessness groups have held a crisis meeting after the death of three men in Belfast over the past two weeks.

In the latest tragedy it is understood that a 44-year-old man, who had just found a place to stay, died in an apartment on Donegall Street on Wednesday.

Police are not treating the death as suspicious.

According to volunteers, the three men who died had all used their services.

The crisis meeting was chaired by Homeless Aware. The group's Paul McCusker said: "It was organised to bring together everyone involved in working with homeless people.

"There were more than 70 outreach workers there, and our plan is now to set up a forum which will help us make more impact on policy and provision of services to help address the needs of homeless people.

"Everyone wants to pull together behind the initiative and to lobby effectively for better health, housing and addictions services for homeless people."

Danielle Lavery from the Amethyst Outreach group, which had been helping the man who died on Wednesday, declined to name the victim but said he was "a true gentleman".

"He was funny, nice, he looked after himself and his friends -they all do," she said. "He was a gentleman. There is no other way of describing him."

She added that she had been very shocked by his death, particularly because he had recently found accommodation.

"It's terrible, because the help they need doesn't stop when they get the roof over their heads," Ms Lavery said.

"It has to be continued support. He had nothing. They aren't looking for a mansion with a big back garden - they are just looking for somewhere safe with a roof over their heads.

"All they have is that bag they sleep with on the street. They need that extra help. To think he got the help... the news of his passing has really shocked me."

Kerry Anthony, CEO of Depaul Ireland, offered her organisation's support and called for urgent action to tackle growing homelessness in the city.

"We are all deeply saddened to hear of the death of another man who previously used homeless services in Belfast," she said.

Mrs Anthony also stressed the negative impact homelessness could have on a person's mental and physical health, calling it a "degenerative condition" because "the longer it persists, the worse the ​impact is".

She further told how it was "absolutely critical" that different groups in the sector worked together to make a difference.

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