Regina Coeli House Workers Suspended By Management

The Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has expressed her disappointment at the decision to close NI's only women's homeless shelter.

Established in 1935, Regina Coeli House is NI's only women-only homeless shelter. Workers and resident's have been staging a 'work-in' since it was revealed that the building's management was considering closing the facility.

It has now been reported that Regina Coeli House management have suspended all staff over alleged "serious breaches of the safety and security" of residents at the women's hostel. Separately, residents have been told that they must leave to be placed in "alternative and uncertain mixed accommodation which may not be appropriate to their needs".

Commenting on the closure, Minister Hargey said: "The closure of this facility is disappointing and my priority is the safety of the women who need this service. My officials and I are working with the Housing Executive to respond to this decision quickly and in the best manner possible and alternative accommodation for the immediate term has been identified.

"The Department and the Housing Executive are working to explore longer term options for maintaining this kind of vital, housing service for women as urgently as possible."

According to Unite the Union, workers and residents will continue their 'work-in' to save the hostel. Supporters from across all parts of Belfast have gathered outside to show their solidarity.
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Unite's General Secretary Sharon Graham said: "The stand of the workers and residents at Regina Coeli House has struck a chord with people across Northern Ireland, and indeed across these islands. The suspension of workers and threats to evict vulnerable women residents at Regina Coeli House are a disgraceful development – the workers and residents have the full support of this union. The Legion of Mary, the NI Housing Executive and Minister for Communities Deirdre Hargey must think again. They must find a solution to the crisis which avoids the threatened closure of the only all-woman hostel in Northern Ireland.

Unite has launched a petition on behalf of the workers hosted on the TUC's Megaphone platform. The petition calls for the Legion of Mary, the NI Housing Executive and Minister for Communities Deirdre Hargey to come together to reverse the threatened closure of the only all-woman hostel in Northern Ireland. The petition will demonstrate that the public is overwhelmingly opposed to this closure.

Unite Regional Equalities and Women's Officer Taryn Trainor was outside Regina Coeli House when workers received news of their suspension.

She said: "Regina Coeli is owned by the Legion of Mary and run by a committee who purport to have an interest in the spiritual well-being of vulnerable women and their workers. It's very hard to reconcile that with the communication that has just been received or the devastating impact it has had on these women.

"Management have suspended the workers on grounds of the safety of residents while at the very same time instructing vulnerable female residents to get into taxis, leave this women-only hostel and transfer into mixed accommodation uncertain of whether it meets their needs. I'm proud to say the workers and residents continue their work-in – they are determined to save their jobs and the future of this vital facility for vulnerable women from across Northern Ireland," Ms Trainor concluded.

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