Belfast Telegraph

Belfast homeless community 'very distressed' after death of rough sleeper in city centre

By Mark Edwards

A 27-year-old homeless man has been found dead in Belfast city centre.

The man's body was found in the doorway of the Bedlinen Warehouse shop in High Street.

The man was found by staff from homeless charity The Welcome Organisation at around 8.30am on Friday.

It is understood he was from the Dublin area and that he had been offered accommodation on Thursday evening.

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service was called to the scene at 8.28am to reports a man was unconscious and not breathing.

An ambulance and two rapid response vehicles were sent.

Detective Inspector Kerry Brennan said: “Police attended a report of a sudden death of a man at the High Street area of Belfast this morning (Friday 18th January).

“A post mortem is due to be carried out to establish the cause of death.  

"Police enquiries are at an early stage and there are no further details at this time.”

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Photograph by Justin Kernoghan Police and forensic experts at the scene on High Street Belfast this morning. Photograph by Justin Kernoghan

Sandra Moore, chief executive of the Welcome Organisation, said:  "I can confirm that staff members from the Welcome Organisation’s Street Outreach team found the body of a homeless male in a doorway in Belfast City Centre this morning.

"The person has not been formally named or cause of death ascertained but it was sudden and unexpected.

"Our thoughts are with the man's family and friends some of whom are members of the homeless community and are very distressed and being supported by Welcome Organisation staff.

"It is tragic that people continue to die on our streets despite the wide range of support being offered. The sad reality is that the individuals involved in rough sleeping are amongst the most vulnerable in society: all too often suffering mental ill health, drug or alcohol addiction or all three. 

"The reality is that if services like those provided by Welcome were not available, the number of street deaths would potentially be much greater”

It is understood the male, thought to be a rough sleeper, was found in a shop doorway in the High Street area earlier this morning (Friday). Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

Ms Moore told the Press Association the workers who found the man were very upset.

"Working in this field is challenging at the best of times, but when you have to deal with a situation like this, it's so tragic," she said.

"The workers are shaken. The last thing they expected when they tried to rouse this young man was that he passed over.

"They had known this person, which makes it that bit more traumatic and personal."

Ms Moore said about 80 individuals were known to be rough sleepers in Belfast, with about 25 on the streets at any one time. She said the majority were single young men.

"There is still something not right, this is one of the best cities in terms of homeless services, and being a small city, services work well together, but we obviously still haven't got it right," she said.

Staff from neighbouring businesses have told the Belfast Telegraph they saw CPR being performed by paramedics on an individual when they came into work on Friday morning. The cordon around the shops has now been lifted by police.

Belfast councillor Jim Rodgers said: "I am really sad that this has happened. We have got a number of people sleeping rough, especially in the city centre of Belfast. My thoughts and prayers and heart felt sympathy go out to his relatives and friends.

"It is just dreadful. I think we all need to do more to bring an end to homelessness in Northern Ireland."

Sinn Fein MLA Carál Ní Chuilín said:  “It’s a serious concern that a homeless man was found dead in Belfast city centre this morning.

“No one should ever have to sleep on the street, particularly in the cold weather.

“But sadly over recent years we have seen rising levels of homelessness around the city centre and across the north.

“Homeless charities have been doing great work but it is important that the Housing Executive and statutory bodies continue providing support to people sleeping on the street. 

“My thoughts are with this man’s family and friend at this difficult time.”

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