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Lord Mayor spreads the Christmas cheer with festive feast for homeless

By Allan Preston

Published 05/12/2015

The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Arder Carson, with a resident of the Morning Star Hostel in Belfast at the City Hall last night
The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Arder Carson, with a resident of the Morning Star Hostel in Belfast at the City Hall last night

Christmas dinner was last night served at Belfast City Hall for around 80 people living homeless in the city.

Those who attended normally have no choice but to spend their evenings sleeping on the streets or in a hostel.

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Arder Carson, hosted the evening and described it as "poignant".

"Tackling the issue of homelessness is one of the themes of my year in office, so being able to host this dinner is very poignant," he said.

Also attending the event were many of the charities and organisations that work closely with the homeless.

The Lord Mayor said that as Christmas drew near and temperatures on the streets dropped, it was important not to forget those who need help.

"At this particular time of the year, it is especially important to turn our thoughts to those on the margins and help them feel included in our festive celebrations," he said.

"I am genuinely pleased that so many people were able to attend this event, and that I - on behalf of the citizens of our city - was able to extend the hand of friendship. Belfast truly is a compassionate city."

The evening was part of the ninth annual Homeless Awareness Week in Northern Ireland, which began last Saturday.

As part of the week, City Hall was lit up in red for the Simon Community and a celebration was held for the homeless world cup Northern Ireland football team.

Later this month, councillors are to be updated by members of the Housing Executive responsible for co-ordinating the homeless strategy for the Belfast region.

The Lord Mayor said that he wanted "to bring an end to long-term homelessness in the city" and "would meet with a broad range of service providers to discuss how the work is co-ordinated and focused to provide the best possible support to the most vulnerable in society".

He added: "I also met with city centre trader associations to discuss homelessness.

"It is only through a concerted, joined-up approach and living up to our reputation as a caring city and people that we can begin to eradicate this problem from our society."

Among the groups which attended and helped to organise the dinner were the Council for the Homeless,the Housing Executive, the Salvation Army and the Simon Community.

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