Belfast Telegraph

Family 'face two years in hostel' after home attack

Alan Dunleavy with his partner Christine Hamill and her son Wayne (7) and their baby son Joseph
Alan Dunleavy with his partner Christine Hamill and her son Wayne (7) and their baby son Joseph
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

A young Co Antrim family who fled their home after a crossbow attack have criticised the Housing Executive for telling them they will spend at least two years in a hostel.

Christine Hamill (24) was 38 weeks pregnant when the home she shared with her seven-year-old son Wayne and partner Alan Dunleavy (25) in Ballyclare was targeted twice.

Sinister graffiti saying "scumbag out" appeared on a wall on April 16 and was followed by the crossbow attack eight days later.

The incident was captured on CCTV and shows a man outside firing the weapon into a window.

"I have no idea why we were targeted, we kept ourselves to ourselves," said Mr Dunleavy.

He said that police told him they did not think the attack was paramilitary-related but was carried out by "a criminal entity", which he claims the Housing Executive won't take as seriously.

Now with the arrival of baby Jospeh ten weeks ago, the family feel the two bedroom apartment in the hostel is not suitable and say they feel too afraid to be rehoused in the Ballyclare area.

"The Housing Executive's advice for us after the first attack was to leave," Mr Dunleavy said.

"I didn't want to leave as I felt people would think we'd done something wrong and the police advised me to install cameras.

"A week later I got footage of somebody shooting an arrow at the house.

"With Christine being heavily pregnant and with a seven-year-old boy as well, there was no way we were staying."

The PSNI have been contacted for a response about the attacks.

After a brief stay with other family members, the couple were placed in the apartment six miles away.

Ms Hamill said: "You've no idea what it's like. I spend most of my time crying, because we don't know what to do.

"The attacks were more scary than anything, my priority is my kids and I'm doing all I can for them and getting nowhere.

"The only other option we're given is to go back to the Ballyclare area, but we don't feel safe.

"Regardless of who attacked us, we were still intimidated and targeted and got no support whatsoever.

"I'm too scared to let my son go out anywhere around here."

Mr Dunleavy added: "Our housing officer blatantly told us we'll be here for two years or more. This is just people being petty.

"I think they're fobbing us off and coming up with excuse after excuse as to why we're not entitled to any extra help even though we've been harassed."

Alliance Party councillor Tom Campbell has called on the Housing Executive to show more compassion.

"Initially, the decision was on the understanding there was only one child, but now there's two and I've met both of them.

"The conditions seem unsuitable for a family in those circumstances and I've invited the Housing Executive to review it."

He added: "For a young family with a very young baby I would hope the Housing Executive would be more compassionate, but they appear not to have reviewed their points system for the family."

Of the claim the Housing Executive takes paramilitary intimidation more seriously, he said: "To me, it doesn't matter if the threat is paramilitary or not.

"The impact of the attacks seems to have been alarming and obviously was enough to make them leave their home."

A Housing Executive spokesperson said: "We can confirm that following an incident in Ballyclare, we provided emergency temporary accommodation to a family. They are currently in a two bedroom flat, which is part of a Housing Executive-owned family hostel.

"Following assessment the family were awarded Full Duty Applicant status. Their circumstances did not meet the criteria for intimidation points.

"The family have chosen to be rehoused in areas where social housing is in high demand with little turnover of suitable properties. We have made them aware of this and advised there may be a delay before an offer of permanent housing could be made for them."

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