Northern Ireland news

Children forced to get taxis to school to avoid discarded needles in west Belfast street

Drugs paraphernalia found in the Finn Square and Fingals Court area of west Belfast

CHILDREN living in a quiet cul de sac have to be taken to school by taxi amid "worsening" antisocial behaviour linked to a nearby homeless hostel, including hard drugs being injected in broad daylight on the street.

Paula McDonald from Finn Square in west Belfast said the situation has become so bad people in the street and adjacent Fingals Court have begun documenting what they are being forced to live with every day.

Pictures and footage reveal discarded needles and other heroin-taking paraphernalia scattered along footpaths, and people slumped on the street, apparently dazed by narcotics.

Among the detritus are several packets of Naloxone, an anti-overdose drug that can reverse the fatal effects of opioids such as heroin, methadone, morphine, codeine, buprenorphine, opium, and pethidine.

It works to stop the respiratory depression that leads addicts to stop breathing and die.

The drug was used to treat the singer Prince when he overdosed on opiate painkillers shortly before his death.

Ms McDonald said the problems are emanating from the Welcome Organisation's homeless hostel.

"It has been ongoing for six years but has escalated big time," she said.

"They put them out on the street when there are people living beside it with kids and there are pensioners. They're fighting on the street at all hours of the day and night.

"The number of needles that we're finding in our areas is unbelievable. They're breaking into our houses. One girl was with her children and had forgotten to lock the front door and found someone upstairs taking a bath.

"There are 50-odd houses here in total. Our kids can't play in the streets. There are people having sex at bus stops and in our street.

"We've had to make arrangements for the kids getting to school. We've had to get private taxis for them.

"The crime rate is going up. Myself and a few of the residents spoke to (the Welcome Centre) and they suggested we put a gate at the end of Fingals and block ourselves in."

Jo Daykin-Goodall, Welcome Organisation director of operations, said it "provides a number of potentially life-saving services to hundreds of people every year including... respite from the street through our drop-in" at Townsend Enterprise Park, providing "their basic needs – food, clothes, showers".

"We recognise that having our drop-in centre located next to a residential area isn't ideal and that is why we are making concerted efforts to engage positively with our neighbours."

She said many of the homeless people they support also have "other complex problems including addiction and poor mental health with some of them expressing suicidal ideation."

Ms Daykin-Goodall said, while it is "not a drug-treatment service or a mental-health facility", staff are "well trained" to deal with people in distress and work closely with other agencies to get them help.

She said it is "aware of the concerns of residents... and we are actively addressing them", with "regular engagement" with a resident group, community and elected representatives and the Housing Executive, Belfast City Council, Belfast trust and police "in an effort to alleviate local concerns".

"Residents can, and do, contact The Welcome Organisation directly and we will, and do, respond to their concerns immediately.

"We will move service users on from the area. However, it should be noted that the vast majority of people using our services are not breaking the law and are respectful of the shared space between ourselves and our neighbours."

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