Workers commence 24-7 work-in occupation of Regina Coeli House in West Belfast

Supporters gathering outside gates of Regina Coeli House

Staff and residents at hostel for homeless women demand urgent intervention by Communities’ Minister Deirdre Hargey

Unite industrial and community members establish a solidarity camp outside the Regina Coeli

Workers at Regina Coeli House have commenced a 24-7 ‘work-in’ occupation of the hostel to demand Ministerial intervention to save the facility. The house faces closure at the end of February with staff members having already received advanced notice of redundancy from February 27th.

The staff will maintain workers’ control over the house ensuring support for the remaining residents until there is a guarantee from Stormont that it will not be closed.

The occupation has been directly supported and encouraged by Unite community members in the Jim Larkin branch. Over the Christmas period, they ensured deliveries were made when residents were left without food or oil. Unite industrial and community members have established a solidarity protest camp outside the Regina Coeli.

The action of the Unite members was hailed by Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham.

“I want to commend the Unite members working at Regina Coeli House who have taken this morning’s radical action as well as the members in the Jim Larkin community branch who have played a vital role. This will put the impending closure of this vital facility firmly on top of the agenda of the Stormont Executive.

“It is simply unacceptable that the one female-only facility, in Northern Ireland, offering support to those with homelessness, addiction, abuse or mental health issues faces closure. Unite is demanding the Communities’ Minister intervene and save Regina Coeli House.”

Regina Coeli House is the only female-only facility in Northern Ireland to provide accommodation and support to those at risk of homelessness, addiction, mental health and domestic abuse. Over the course of the pandemic, the numbers of residents at the 21 bed facility has been rapidly run-down with vulnerable residents being transferred to mixed-sex accommodation despite their needs. Today’s action by staff came to avoid the remaining residents being forced to leave.

Regional Equalities and Women’s Officer for Unite, Taryn Trainor, visited the occupation and offered her full backing to the workers and residents.

“The way in which these minimum-wage workers and residents at Regina Coeli House have been treated is both troubling and deeply shocking. This situation reflects the arms-length approach of Stormont who have outsourced their responsibility to provide vital support services to women.

“At the same time, the action of workers and residents in today’s occupation is hugely inspiring. Minimum-wage workers are making a stand to save a vital facility for vulnerable women across Northern Ireland. They have established worker-control over this hostel and will ensure it stays open.

“Unite is still waiting to receive a response to our request for an urgent meeting with Communities’ Minister Deirdre Hargey. We reiterate our demand that she intervene to save this facility and these services.”

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