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Councillor steps in to help men living in a tent

Cllr Pat Catney with Zenon and Maciej in the woods where they are living. US0912-117A0

Cllr Pat Catney with Zenon and Maciej in the woods where they are living. US0912-117A0

A LISBURN councillor has questioned how three homeless Polish men have slipped through the net and are living in squalid conditions in tent in a wood on the outskirts of the city

Pat Catney said the men, who are in their 40's and 50s, have been made homeless and living in a make shift campsite near Hulls Lane. One of them has been there for over a year.

They have to wash in a nearby stream and gather wood to light fires to cook their food. They have also had to dig holes in the ground to bury their waste.

Two of the men receive Jobseekers Allowance and have been living on £67 a week while another has been living on nothing.

Zenon and Maciej who are living in the woods.

Zenon and Maciej who are living in the woods.

On hearing their plight Mr Catney went with them to the Housing Executive and the Simon Community to try and get them accommodation and clothes. They were provided with blankets and a duvet as well as warm under garments. They are expected to get some emergency accommodation today (Thursday). St Vincent de Paul have also offered help for the men.

"I fear that these are not the only people in our city living like this," Mr Catney said. "But unless we know about them we cannot give them help.

"The problem is that these men want to work. One of them is a mechanic while another is a car sprayer.

"They are not living like this through choice. They told me that they applied for jobs as mushroom pickers. The problem is they are living rough and smell of smoke from the camp fire so if they go for interviews, one look at them and people will just not want to know.

Mr Catney continued: "They have had an offer to be repatriated back to their country but they said there is nothing there to go back to.

It is a sad state of affairs that people are living like this. This is as bad as it gets. I simply cannot turn my back on them. I will do whatever I can to help. I offered to drive them wherever they need to go. These men are just living like dogs yet all they need is a helping hand. They want to work but just cannot get a job."

Mr Catney got a Polish interpreter to help him communicate with the men.
They are very polite men and just want a home," he said. 'We are only lucky this has been a mild winter otherwise we might have had a fatality on our hands."

A spokesperson from the Housing Executive said anyone who becomes homeless should contact them.

"We will carry out a detailed assessment of their circumstances and apply the complex legislative criteria to determine entitlement to housing and homelessness assistance. "The Housing Executive will provide advice and assistance to those who do not meet the legislative criteria," they said.

A spokesperson for the Simon Community said: "We provide emergency accommodation, advice and community support for people who are homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless.

"We want to make sure we are doing all we can for people who find themselves in housing need. If people are at risk of becoming homeless, we are encouraging them to get in touch with us.

"Our advice line, on 0800 171 2222 is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, enabling local people who are in crisis to call the organisation for accommodation, advice or support.

"If you are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless call 0800 171 2222. If we can't help with a particular issue, we can signpost to a relevant organisation that can."

Ulster Star