Belfast Telegraph

Derry gran left homeless by blaze given just an hour to vacate shelter after row with bosses

By Leona O'Neill

A grandmother whose home was lost in a fire as she lay ill in hospital has spoken of her distress after being evicted from the homeless shelter she has lived in for the past year following a dispute with management.

Louise Nash (50) had been living in Clarendon Women's Shelter (Ashmore House) in Londonderry since September after her Springtown bungalow burnt down as she recuperated from illness in hospital.

On June 29, Ms Nash said she was handed a letter of eviction and given an hour to vacate the premises she has called home since her property was destroyed.

She said she was asked to leave after refusing to sign a revised code of conduct that had been drawn up by new management, and after she raised concerns over the introduction of male staff into a shelter that houses vulnerable women, including those who have suffered domestic abuse.

"There had been some issues over the course of a number of days," Ms Nash said.

"I had voiced my concern about the new male manager who was appointed. The shelter is exempt from having to employ males, and boys over the age of 12 years old are not allowed in. There were meetings and I spoke up about these issues.

"Then a new code of conduct was brought in for us all to sign. I had signed a code of conduct when I arrived at the home last year.

"I felt that the issues I was raising were not being dealt with so I said I wasn't signing a new code of conduct.

"I went down to get my breakfast at 11am on June 29 and was handed a letter that said I had to get out before noon.

"I had to go and pack my bags with absolutely nowhere to go. I was scared and devastated. I had a mental breakdown last year and have to watch my mental health.

"I packed my belongings and just sat in my room distraught. I was told by management that the police would be coming to escort me out if I didn't leave."

Ms Nash said the code of conduct issued by Ashmore House states that gross misconduct in terms of violent or inappropriate behaviour towards residents or staff, damage to property or theft will mean immediate expulsion.

She said she was neither guilty or accused of any of this type of behaviour.

"The letter they gave me to ask me to leave says that I failed to co-operate with staff in not signing the code of conduct and that I actively encouraged others not to sign it," she said. "They have simply made an example of me. I am disgusted by how they have treated me."

Ms Nash was assisted in gathering together her belongings by other residents, a taxi was arranged and she was taken to a local B&B which had been organised by the Housing Executive, and that is where she is now staying.

Ashmore House said: "We are working with the individual to find alternative temporary accommodation. We are happy to do so and are continuing to do so. We are working to safeguard clients and to assist her and support her in every way to find alternative suitable accommodation for her needs."

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