Ex-Regina Coeli worker slams delay in opening new women-only hostel
A former worker at the Regina Coeli hostel has denounced a delay in the opening of a new women-only establishment in Belfast.
The Lake Glen Avenue hostel closed earlier this year after management announced in November that the building needed £500,000 in repairs and had to close.
The building belongs to the Legion of Mary – a Catholic voluntary organization.
Staff held an 11-week ‘work-in’ at the west Belfast hostel after the closure was announced.
The workers were suspended but stayed on to help women in need of addiction and mental health support.
Some workers were subsequently made redundant.
The Department of Communities and the Housing Executive originally announced that a new women-only hostel would open in May.
However, the installation has still not been implemented.
Former worker Emma McCann said people at the hostel continue to support homeless women who are “living in crisis”.
She said the delays in opening the new facility are unacceptable.
“We recently saw a young woman on the street who had collapsed with a needle sticking out of her neck,” she said.
“That might not have happened if the new hostel was open.
“If it was a hotel, a new golf club or something else that attracts tourists, it would have already been opened.
“We ended our occupation of the Regina Coeli house because we were assured that a new facility would be put in place.”
People Before Profit MP Gerry Carroll has called on Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey to set a date for the opening of a new facility.
“The workers and residents of Regina Coeli House fought a heroic campaign to ensure vulnerable women did not lose this vital service,” he said.
“The assurances about the opening of a new facility would not have been given without them.
‘It is time for the Minister for Communities and the Housing Executive to fulfill their end of the bargain.’
He added: “It is simply not good enough that vulnerable women are forced to wait for these services.
“Each day that passes without the availability of this proposed facility puts more women at risk.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Communities said: “The safety and well-being of vulnerable women in need of emergency accommodation is a priority for the Minister who has done everything in her power to s ensure that a new women-only facility is in place as soon as possible.
“The Housing Executive has appointed a provider to manage these vital services and continues to work with them to finalize suitable, safe and secure premises.
“The Housing Executive has also secured additional women-only emergency accommodation in Belfast city centre.”