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Homeless volunteers lead tributes to 'true gentleman' found dead in Belfast

Belfast outreach groups meeting tonight as third death in two weeks

By Claire Williamson

Published 18/02/2016

Protest held at the front of Belfast City hall after a homeless man died while sleeping rough in the city centre. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Protest held at the front of Belfast City hall after a homeless man died while sleeping rough in the city centre. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
A rally was held in Belfast in response to the recent deaths.
Protest held at the front of Belfast City hall after a homeless man died while sleeping rough in the city centre. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Protest held at the front of Belfast City hall after a homeless man died while sleeping rough in the city centre. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Protest held at the front of Belfast City hall after a homeless man died while sleeping rough in the city centre. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Protest held at the front of Belfast City hall after a homeless man died while sleeping rough in the city centre. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Donegall Place in Belfast

Tributes have been paid to a former homeless man found dead in Belfast city centre.

The 44-year-old was discovered in a flat in Donegall Street yesterday afternoon.

Homeless Volunteers paid tribute to the man on social media saying this was the third user of their services to die in recent weeks.

Police are not treating the death as suspicious at this stage.

Help group Amethyst Outreach - Giving Hope For A Better Future led tributes to the "true gentleman" - and said the recent deaths have left them in "dire straits".

Danielle Lavery from the group told the Belfast Telegraph the man  - who is believed to have been a father-of-two - had just secured accommodation in the past few months.

She said: "It's a shock to the system to the whole team. He was a gentleman, you couldn't ask for a nicer guy to have known.

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

Danielle said that when a homeless person gets a roof over their head, the support doesn't stop.

"It has to be continued support. You don't get accommodation and then everyone forgets about you. There were other outreach teams that were able to hep him out with furnishing his new place, clothing, if he was hungry he knew he could come out and we would have fed him

"They aren't looking that roof over their heads and that's it - it's the follow through and help."

The news of the man's passing has impacted the team and they want to see a change in help and resources for outreach groups like themselves to be able to support those in need

"We will be having a group meeting tonight because we are in shock.

"We are in dire straits at the minute. Three in two weeks is not right and the team are feeling it.

"We can only do so much, we can only feed, water, clothe, hygiene and give them so much stuff. From the councils to GPs to housing rights associations, they need so much more than what they are actually being given.

"There are quite a few users who have mental health problems and yet there is nothing for them.

"There is nowhere for them to turn to or talk to other than us - Nobody wants to listen to these guys."

The group also called for an end to the stigma and stereotyping of those living on the streets.

"People say they are all alcoholics but plenty of our users don't drink or take drugs but through no fault of their own they are where they are now.

"These guys need professional help as well as what we can do to help them

She added: "There is only so much we can do. It doesn't run on air and money can run low."

Amethyst Outreach have launched a petition to open up empty buildings in Belfast for homeless people and currently have more than 16,000 signatures.

Another group Hope Outreach For The Homeless posted on their Facebook page: "It is with a heavy heart we go on outreach tonight, we've had news that an ex service user who was one of the first guys we met, has passed away, a true gentleman who was greatly loved by us all."

Recently a rally was held in Belfast following the death of a homeless man in the city centre's streets.

The rally, organised by People Before Profit's Gerry Carroll, called for the city to "redouble efforts to tackle the homeless crisis."

A Facebook post to announce the event said: "In 2016 no one should go without a roof over their head."

The man know as 'Jimmy', who was in his early 30s and from Belfast, was found by outreach workers in the Donegall Place area early on Sunday February 7.

Paramedics and the police tried to resuscitate him for 30 minutes, but their efforts were in vain.

The man, who is understood to have been married and had children, was well-known to several city outreach organisations, including Hope Outreach for the Homeless.

Volunteer Donna Connor said: "We all knew this man and are really heartbroken to hear the sad news.  He was one of our regular service users and we would talk to him most nights when we are giving out hot meals and drinks.

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