TWELVE vulnerable young people are facing an uncertain future with the impending closure of Lurgan Foyer at Mount Zion House.
The Northern Ireland Housing Executive has pulled funding for the 11 staff at the Foyer, forcing it to close at the end of September.
The young people are so distraught they have started a petition to save the safest home they have known in their lives.
However, in a statement the Housing Executive said it was working to find suitable alternative accommodation for the young people locally.
Leah Doherty (19) was close to tears as she said she and her friends have been given until September 30 to find alternative accommodation.
Another resident Elizabeth Sousa (21) said the Housing Executive had not been able to help as they are not regarded as a priority even though they are in sheltered accommodation and will soon be made homeless again.
Elizabeth explained that the residents don’t have family or a support network, that is why they are in Lurgan Foyer.
“We don’t have family to help us out. We don’t have the money for private rentals and we don’t have the money for a deposit of £600-£800. We don’t have anything but the clothes on our backs so we have no furniture or bedding or anything,” she said.
“I’m really worried and frustrated. They must have known about this since June but have only told us about it last week.
“I feel let down. They are meant to support us but instead they are making us homeless.”
It is the eighth move within a year for 19-year-old Clare, who asked the paper not to publish her surname, and has moved around 20 times in the last three years.
“This is the longest time I have stayed,” she said, revealing that in other hostels she was a lot younger than other residents and some were rapists, murderers and drug dealers.
“Here there are friends and protection. This is the only place I have felt safe.”
Elizabeth was full of praise for the staff at Lurgan Foyer, saying the support they all had received there was ‘unbelievable’.
“Lots of us have needs and issues and they have helped us,” said Elizabeth adding that some of the residents are just 16 and have to learn to cook and clean for themselves - these are tasks the staff help the residents with.
Leah said a lot of the residents have problems with their families and that is why they have no one else to turn to.
“No one has asked us how we feel or how much this place has helped us,” said Elizabeth.
“I feel safer here than I have ever felt and it is has given me a great confidence. It has helped us all,” said Leah.
“We have become like a big family. Most of us have no one else so we rely on each other,” said Elizabeth.
Amanda Stewart, a development worker with BYTES which has worked with these young people on various courses, said: “It’s like tearing a community apart.”
Daniel McCann (20) is staying at the hostel with his sister Melissa aged 22. Daniel said: “All we have is this place and it is closing down. We don’t know what to do.”
The Lurgan Foyer is the only hostel among four in Northern Ireland that caters for 16-year-olds.