‘HOMELESS LET DOWN BY NIHE’

MORE than a month after young people at Lurgan Foyer were told to leave, the Housing Executive has still failed to find them suitable accommodation.

Ten residents remain at the Mount Zion hostel in Edward Street, days after their deadline to leave.

However, the NIHE’s Southern Area Manager said the Executive had ‘serious concerns about how the project had been managed’.

Speaking to Craigavon Borough Council she said the NIHE was required to fulfil certain standards and that ‘this project had standards which had not been met’.

She said this project had been given numerous opportunities to meet the required standards but there had been an independent assessment which had recommended to cease the project.

She told councillors the Foyer had been running for nine years but that ‘it had turned into something it was never meant to be’.

SDLP Cllr Joe Nelson who is involved with Mount Zion disagreed with the area manager.

He said he had seen all the correspondence and said there had been a lack of communication. He voiced his surprise that the project had been given various chances.

He said Mount Zion had been more than willing to correct issues and the young people were stuck in the middle and nervous of their future.

The NIHE had cut cash for its Supporting People project which funded the Lurgan Foyer, where vulnerable young people are provided with temporary short term accommodation.

A campaign began just over a month ago by the young people themselves to try and save the hostel.

However, their pleas fell on deaf ears and they are struggling to find out where they will be living next.

Elizabeth Sousa who led the campaign said everyone at Mount Zion had felt ‘let down’.

“No one cares,” she said.

She said the residents had asked for a meeting with the Housing Executive but have not received a reply.

“It is really frustrating.”

The 21-year-old revealed that ten people still have to be housed by the Executive.

And she said that despite the fact that the hostel is for homeless young people and they are facing homelessness as it is closing - one young person, Leah Doherty, had been told by the NIHE that she was ‘not a priority’.

“She (Leah) feels like everyone has turned their back on her,” she said.

Elizabeth said she had been given 120 points which made her a priority yet she still has not been offered accommodation.

She said spirits are so low in the hostel that many are suffering from depression.

And it is understood staff working at the hostel, who were told their contracts are to finish, are also in limbo.

Some have been told that they are working on ‘rolling contracts’.

A spokesperson for the NIHE said: “The Lurgan Foyer (known locally as Mount Zion House) is a facility which provides temporary short term accommodation for young, single, homeless people aged between 16 to 25.

“The Housing Executive remains committed to working with other stakeholders to find alternative accommodation in the area for the 12 residents.

“The Housing Executive has, in agreement with SLCP, agreed for an extension to the deadline until the end of October to facilitate the remaining tenants. We will, in conjunction with other stakeholders, actively pursue the housing options for each individual resident

“While we cannot comment on individual cases we would confirm that Mount Zion House is a short term facility and not intended to be a permanent solution to the housing needs of these young people.”