Northern Ireland news

Homeless services `ramped up' as cold weather moves in

A homeless couple from Latvia sleep on vacant ground near Carrickhill in north Belfast Picture Mal McCann.
Marie Louise McConville

Concerns were last night raised for the welfare of a Latvian couple who are believed to have been sleeping rough on the streets of north Belfast for the last number of days.

As snow fell over the city yesterday, the couple, who are believed to be aged in their forties, were huddled together under a duvet at waste ground beside Carrick Hill.

The couple, who only speak limited English, said they arrived in Northern Ireland around eight months ago.

The authorities and homelessness organisations are aware of the couple and arrangements have been made for them with regards to accommodation.

Sandra Moore, Chief Executive Officer of the Welcome Organisation, told the Irish News that the body had assisted "a young Latvian couple, who had not previously contacted us, secure temporary accommodation while the partner agencies work to find a longer term housing solution".

Meanwhile, with the weather due to worsen in the coming days, Ms Moore said the Welcome Organisation is "working with the Housing Executive to identify those at risk of rough sleeping and liaising with partner accommodation providers" to make sure all homeless services are co-ordinated.

She said her organisation had "opened it's drop-in centre overnight, services have been ramping up to make sure there are extra beds in the system and access restrictions relaxed."

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