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Morning Star residents' anger as Belfast homeless shelter's heating system fails

By David Young

Published 21/11/2016

The Morning Star House hostel which had heating problems
The Morning Star House hostel which had heating problems

Residents at a homeless shelter claim they were left living in freezing conditions after the building's heating system broke down.

The problem at Belfast's Morning Star House was caused by the pump that pushes hot water to the radiators of the city centre hostel stopped working.

Some of the 39 residents of the Legion of Mary facility were angry at being left in the cold.

One resident claimed that on Saturday night, around 10 residents left the hostel to hunt for warmth elsewhere.

He told the BBC that although staff had brought in four electric heaters for the communal area downstairs, there was no heating in the bedrooms, which he described as being "like ice boxes".

But when the Belfast Telegraph called at the hostel last night, senior support worker Joe McKeown said the situation was well under control, with reserve heaters available for residents.

Mr McKeown said: "It's just one of those things.

"The heating packed up late on Friday afternoon.

"We got our engineer in to inspect the system and he found it was the water pump that was broken.

"The hot water is still running, but we need a new pump to get heat to the radiators.

"The pump is a big specialised component - not the kind of part a plumber would keep in his van."

As it was a Friday afternoon, there was no way to get a replacement unit over the weekend, when suppliers are closed.

A new pump has been ordered, Mr McKeown said.

He added: "We expect it to arrive and be fitted on Monday."

Concerns had been expressed about elderly residents, but Mr McKeown said there were only two elderly people currently in the hostel - and they were being looked after as a priority by members of staff.

The Legion of Mary has provided temporary accommodation to homeless men in Belfast since 1938.

The Morning Star shelter opened in 2004.

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