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Place your family notice

Pregnant mum wants moved from hostel

By Scott Jamison

A South Belfast family have claimed “unhealthy conditions” in which they are living are having a negative impact on their health and have urged the Housing Executive to move them.

Mary Ellen Hutchison – who is pregnant with twins – and her husband Martin say they have been housed in a damp-ridden, cold flat in the Roseville House hostel off the Ormeau Road with their 19-month-old daughter for almost a year.

Mary Ellen, who suffers from rare metabolic condition glutaric aciduria which restricts her movements, said both her GP and a health specialist have written to the HE in a bid to get her family rehoused.

“They both stated these conditions are unfit for me and could have a negative impact upon my health and the health of my babies. My social worker has also expressed serious concern with the accommodation we are currently living in.

“We just can’t stay in this place any longer. It’s totally rotten with damp, there are holes in the walls and cracks in the roof. The flat is so cold we have to sleep in our clothes. We spend as little time here as possible and dread coming back. No one should have to live like this.”

She said it was not just herself who is being affected by the conditions.

“The damp in the flat is affecting our health. My asthma has been getting awful and my daughter has been very ill. Martin is suffering from stress and anxiety because of the situation. I’ll have newborn twins soon and I can’t bring them back to live in these conditions.

“The Housing Executive have just fobbed us off over and over again. All we’ve been offered is temporary accommodation in loyalist areas where we wouldn’t feel safe for our children. Finally, we were promised we’d get a single-let before Christmas but here we are in February and there’s no sign of progress. I’m at my wit’s end.”

Paddy Meehan, South Belfast representative of the Socialist Party, said the family had approached the party to complain about their situation.

“We need urgent action. The Executive should take action to bring long-term vacant accommodation into public ownership. Instead of handing out millions in subsidies to big business, they should massively invest in building decent social housing. This would create thousands of jobs for construction workers and begin to deal with the situation facing people like Mary-Ellen and her family.”

A HE spokesperson said the organisation had been in “regular contact” with the Hutchinson family over their rehousing after they presented as homeless last April and were provided with a self-contained flat in Roseville House.

“In November the family asked if they could be moved into temporary accommodation in the private sector. At that time they were advised that we only have access to a limited supply of private sector properties and therefore this would not be possible in the foreseeable future. However, they were also advised they could make their own arrangements for private rented accommodation on a short-term basis and still retain their homelessness status. We have also offered to move them on a number of occasions to alternative hostel accommodation but these offers were refused.

“The family has asked to be rehoused permanently in Cromac or Upper Ormeau; both are high demand areas with few re-lets occurring. If the family were to consider alternative housing areas then we might be able to rehouse them sooner. Staff will continue to liaise with the family about their housing needs.”



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