Feet on the street needed at The People’s Kitchen march and demonstration over rising death toll among Belfast homeless
- Friday 22 July 2022
Unite the union is lending its support to a demonstration and march in Belfast called by The People’s Kitchen and a wider coalition of homeless charities in response to the recent spate of deaths on the streets.
What: March and Demonstration for action on homeless crisis
When: 2pm Saturday 23 July 2022
Where: Demonstration gathering point at 1 Antrim Road, Belfast with march to City Hall
The initiative has been taken to demand action after the death of a second young women on the streets of the city in a week. The tragic death brings to 15 the total deaths of homeless people.
Unite regional coordinating officer Susan Fitzgerald pledged Unite’s support for the initiative and linked government inaction on homelessness to the union’s campaign at Regina Coeli House.
She said: “Unite members working at Regina Coeli House Hostel conducted a twelve-week occupation and work-in in an attempt to save the facility and the unique service it offered vulnerable women from across Northern Ireland. They ended that occupation after receiving assurances from Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey and NI Housing Executive Chief Executive Officer Grainia Long that an enhanced and expanded replacement facility providing the same support and services would be available in May. Unfortunately those pre-election promises have not materialised. Sadly now we are witnessing the human cost with more and more lives lost including the devastating loss of two young women on the streets of Belfast in recent days.
“Our union is encouraging others to join this march to demand action on homelessness. So far this year there have been 15 deaths of homeless people on our streets; that toll is an indictment of Stormont. It is disgusting that in our society so many are brutalised by poverty, addiction and abuse and then just left to fend for themselves with little or no support. Fundamentally we need to tackle the root cause of homelessness, we need public housing and fully-funded, expanded NHS-run addiction and counselling services.
“Right now, we need immediate action – Stormont must act and deliver supported accommodation for all homeless people – in particular that they make good on the promise to vulnerable women who have been left with no options since the closure of Regina Coeli House.”
Regional community coordinator Albert Hewitt also voiced his support and that of Unite’s community membership for the initiative.
He said: “Stormont has done nothing for years about the growth of homelessness. Outreach and support for the homeless have been sub-contracted out to charities with even accommodation and onsite counselling services being outsourced and then left to shut down – just like we witnessed at Regina Coeli House. With the cost of living crisis mounting, more and more people are being forced onto the streets unable to pay rent. Homeless is set to be the next big issue and Stormont must act.
“How many more lives have to be lost while Stormont and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive sit idly by and do nothing? During the Covid outbreak accommodation for homeless people could be found overnight but now they tell us it is impossible. No one believes. Now we are saying we need to get feet on the street to demand action and save lives. We must pursue the politicians until they move and deliver what is needed.”
For further information or an interview contact Susan Fitzgerald, Unite Regional Coordinating Officer, 07919 881218; Albert Hewitt, Unite Regional Community Coordinator, tel. or Donal O’Cofaigh, Unite Campaigns, Communications & Press (NI), tel. 07810 157926.
Twitter: @uniteunionNI; Facebook: unitetheunionNI; Instagram: unitetheunionNI; web: www.unitetheunionireland.org
Unite is the UK and Ireland’s leading union fighting to protect and advance jobs, pay and conditions for members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Sharon Graham.