Homelessness problem in Lisburn ‘frightening’

COUNCILLOR Pat Catney has described the problem of homelessness in Lisburn as ‘frightening.’

In the last week he has had to deal with 20 homeless people who have come to him looking for help, after it was revealed last week that he was trying to assist three Polish men who have been living in a campsite in Hull’s Lane for a year.

“And that’s only the people who have come to me,” said Mr Catney. “I have no doubt that there are many, many others who have gone unreported and slipped through the net.”

According to figures released by the Housing Executive the number of people accepted as homeless in Lisburn - which includes Lisburn, Lambeg, Aghalee and Hillsborough - stands at 644. Overall in Northern Ireland there are 10,443 people registered as homeless.

Since last week, Mr Catney said that he had been attempting to get accommodation for the three men as well as dealing with countless other cases.

He praised the work of the St Vincent de Paul, the Simon Community and the Immigration Society. By Tuesday, all three had got accommodation and plans are underway to serve an eviction order on the land so the men will be unable to return to set up camp.

“We finally got them somewhere to stay,” Mr Catney said. “For some of them this has been the first time in about a year they have had a roof over their head.

“I really struggled to find them anywhere. On top of that I was dealing with others who are deemed as homeless in Lisburn.

“I had one young fellow who came to me who has been living on the streets and I was able to get him accommodation in Lisburn on Monday night. However, I was only able to buy him a new duvet and blankets for another night. I have been very concerned for this man’s welfare and have had a sleepless night worrying about him. I helped him any way I could and I hope his case will be reassessed by the Simon Community. He is adamant that he wants to stay in Lisburn. I am totally tearing my hair out over him.

“You don’t want to see people living out on the streets.”

Mr Catney said that he has witnessed at first hand the plight of homelessness.

“There is a big, big problem out there,” he said. “I as an individual have only dealt with a tip of the problem. Most of these people are good people and just want a home.

“After a night in the hostel these men look like a new pin. These guys want to work and hopefully they are on the right road.

”It does not matter about their circumstances, homelessness is homelessness. Many of these people are in total isolation from society.

“All many of them need is a little leg up and it does not take much money to get them on the right path again. It is all about life choices. We all make life choices. Most of us have family to rely on but some people do not have that luxury and for whatever reason are homeless.

“It was all better a few years ago when there was plenty of work and money was plentiful, but we do not have that anymore, We are in a recession and there is not that amount of work or money about anymore. I fear this problem will only get worse.”