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Let's end these homeless deaths

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 21/03/2016

Catherine Kenny
Catherine Kenny

Homelessness is one of the great scourges of modern society, and the death of Catherine Kenny is so tragic.

She was the fifth homeless person to die in Belfast in recent weeks. She was found dead on Saturday morning in a shop doorway, where her former partner 'Jimmy' Coulter died last month. The circumstances of her death could hardly be more bleak.

Most people would want their pets to have a better death than lying outside on the ground overnight in our capital city. However, Catherine Kenny was a fellow human being.

So often we walk past someone sleeping rough, and we look the other way, not seeing the real person beneath the bundle of old blankets and piecemeal protection to keep out the chill.

Catherine is not just another sad statistic. She was once a person who had hopes and dreams, and yet at a relatively young age her life has ended in the most tragic of circumstances. It should make all of us wonder how this could happen in our modern society.

One of Catherine's friends claims that she was let down by the system, but it is clear that she was not entirely without help.

Those who knew her, including charity workers and those working with the agencies helping the homeless, had only good things to say about her.

Despite all of this, she seems to have lived increasingly on the margins, and we need to know why she was unable to be saved, given the help that was available. Homelessness remains a massively complex problem, but the death of five people on our streets in recent weeks is truly shocking.

Some television programmes have highlighted the difficulties of trying to help, including the claims that some homeless people do not feel safe in hostels. One way to counter this would be to provide greater security in these places of refuge and help.

The Lord Mayor, Arder Carson, has been proactive in trying to tackle the issue, and he and a large number of others are to be thanked for their efforts.

Sadly, however, the problem remains. There has been an outpouring of grief and outrage following Catherine Kenny's death, just as there was on the four previous occasions.

The best tribute of all would be to ensure, as much as is possible, that Catherine's death is the last in such awful circumstances.

Belfast Telegraph

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