Minimum pay workers receive notice of pending redundancy for February 27th at only women-only facility offering accommodation and addiction support for homeless in Northern Ireland
Regina Coeli house, at Lakeglen avenue in West Belfast, has provided a refuge to homeless and vulnerable women since 1935. The facility, owned by the Legion of Mary but funded by the NIHE through its Supporting People programme is the only facility offering exclusively female accommodation to support those suffering from addiction, mental health difficulties, homelessness and abuse.]]
In November, staff at the facility were plunged into uncertainty as media reported on the likelihood of closure within months. Workers were already fearful for the future given the exceptionally high staff turnover rate and the rapid decline in the number of residents at the 21 bed facility over the period of the Covid pandemic.
A part of what now appears a concerted effort to clear the amenity, workers have had to witness vulnerable residents being removed from the all-female house into mixed accommodation despite their needs.
The staff at the house have joined Unite the union and in the absence of adequate food or heating provision, Unite’s Jim Larkin community branch has stepped up to provide food supplies to residents.
Unite Regional Equalities & Women’s Officer Taryn Trainor highlighted the need for this facility.
“Regina Coeli House is the only facility offering women-only accommodation for the homeless and those suffering from mental health or addiction difficulties. In some cases, the residents may have experienced violence or trauma from a violent partner and need an all-female facility to feel safe and less vulnerable and yet they have been forced into mixed accommodation.
“It’s completely unacceptable that workers and residents at what is a publicly-funded facility – providing a service to some of our most vulnerable women – can be treated like this. Instead of this facility being wound down and closed, we should be seeing a huge investment into expand its provision. With the Covid pandemic, never has the need for this sort of a facility been more necessary.”
Unite Regional Secretary Jackie Pollock was sharply critical of the situation facing workers and remaining residents:
“I have written to Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey to request an urgent meeting. Minister Hargey has the power to intervene; guaranteeing the future of this facility and the services it offers to vulnerable women.
“Unite will be engaging with our members and the residents on the next steps to secure the future of Regina Coeli. We are calling on the local community to back these workers and join our call for Ministerial intervention to safeguard this women’s hostel.”