Leading article

Grim reality of the homeless

With the seasonal celebrations in full swing, and families enjoying reunions in all parts of Ireland, it is a chilling thought that two homeless people have died in Belfast alone over recent days.

The prediction from a community worker that other related fatalities are likely to follow in the near future also deserves to be carefully considered by the authorities.

As we reported yesterday, the two latest victims include a woman who died in hospital and a man who was found dead in a flat. Both are understood to have been in their 20s and used homelessness services.

It all represents a major dilemma, as some people living on the streets are seeking proper and permanent accommodation, while others, for their own reasons, are not.

Issues can arise over the use of drink and particularly drugs, and there are individuals who are only too ready to exploit the most vulnerable elements in our society if they see an opportunity.

We are fortunate that many dedicated volunteers are already working with the homeless on a nightly basis, and they need as much support as possible from statutory officials.

There are no easy answers but heartening examples can be found of homeless people who have been helped to transform their circumstances within a relatively short period of time.

Other much darker histories can also be found when a combination of circumstances send lives into a downward spiral either slowly or quite suddenly and result in a tragic outcome.

It is essential that we recognise the scale of the problems which exist and maintain structures which are capable of delivering at least some form of solution.

Leading article

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