Belfast Telegraph

We need to tackle problem of homelessness at its root cause

In a moving tribute, Breige Headley, Roisin Finlay and Deborah Finlay, founders of FAITH Outreach Belfast, pay tribute to Catherine Kenny, and discuss what more can be done to address the plight of Belfast's homeless.

Catherine was known to us as 'Wee Ninja' and 'Princess'.

She was always very bubbly and active, but took real pride in her appearance.

To say we will miss her just doesn't seem right or enough. It just won't be the same any more.

This is now the fifth death on our streets which has left us devastated, as it has done with everyone who had the pleasure of knowing Catherine and the other four gentlemen who recently passed away.

These deaths have made us re-evaluate what exactly it is we think needs done to prevent this from happening again.

As a group, and a small one at that, we feel it is vital that a good line of communication is kept with all outreach groups, drop-in centres, hostels and other facilities available to the homeless or those in need.

This should include regular meetings, emails and so forth.

The issue of homelessness is diverse and often stigmatised.

It is true that addiction often plays a role in a homeless person's life, however, it is not true that all homeless people end up in such a way due to bad life choices.

Many people we encounter had perfectly normal lives before becoming homeless and often turn to substance use as a coping mechanism for their deteriorated circumstances.

With this in mind, attention needs to be given to rehabilitation facilities available in Belfast. This month has seen the closure of Fasa, one of few facilities that our service users could use and rely on in an attempt to change their lifestyle and make progress with their situation.

We also need to consider the procedures in place for those that take the vital steps to seek help via the NHS - with waiting lists for rehabilitation taking up to five weeks or more.

While more availability in housing sounds like a catch-all solution, we need to realise that a roof is not enough to help change the lifestyle of someone struggling with an addiction. To truly change the course of the homelessness issue in our country, we need to tackle the problem at its root cause(s) and understand that currently, our society fails people in a number of ways, many of which all have this same outcome.

Belfast Telegraph

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