Regina Coeli staff say they have been ‘going through hell’

: MEETING: West Belfast MP Paul Maskey talks to residents from Regina Coeli Hostel : MEETING: West Belfast MP Paul Maskey talks to residents from Regina Coeli Hostel
By Ciara Quinn

STAFF from Regina Coeli House say they are “going through hell” as they face an uncertain future following management’s decision to close the much valued and needed women’s hostel.

The staff members who did not want to be named, said they were “not getting any answers from management as to whether or not they’d be out of a job” come the end of the month.

“Basically what we are faced with is the doors are closing for us on August 31 and the guests. Staff have been left to deal with the fall out of this and we keep asking is this true? Is this true? But we have yet to have any definite answers,” one member of staff said.

The staff members told the Andersonstown News that it was their understanding that the Legion of Mary, who own the building, intend to keep it open solely “as a place to come and pray”.

Another staff member said: “Some of us have been at Regina Coeli for several years, there are 12 staff and we carry out support work, we look after the girls, the women. We help them with anything they need, we clean the hostel and cook at weekends, it’s our place of work.”

Staff members spoke of how the hostel building is in need of urgent upgrade works.

“The place is falling apart, we can’t understand were all the money, the funding has went through the years. If we question it we are told it’s what pays our wages.

“We basically feel sick at what has happened, everybody is heartbroken and are just crying in the hostel.

“We haven’t officially been given any notice – do we have jobs? Do we not have jobs? We are in limbo.”

Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Fra McCann, along with West Belfast MP Paul Maskey, have held a number of meetings with residents, staff and the Housing Executive since the crisis broke on Friday morning.

“It is clear there needs to be negiotations between the Housing Executive and Legion of Mary, there needs to be investment at Regina Coeli as the building needs to be fit for purpose. My main concern in all of this is the 21 women who may or may not be made homeless come the end of this month and staff who could lose their jobs,” said Fra McCann.

“We are asking that the threat of closure be removed from Regina Coeli.”

Manager of Rosemount House, the hostel for homeless men on the Antrim Road, Charlie McGarry, told the Andersonstown News that the Executive should be approached to find the “proper much-needed funding.”

“It was with great sadness that I was told of the closing of Regina Coeli,” explained Charlie. “The hostel for vulnerable homeless women, along with its counterpart, Morning Star House has been providing service and shelter to the Belfast community for over 70 years.”

SDLP MLA Alex Attwood said: “I understand that attempts are being made to arrange for the management of the hostel and the Housing Executive to meet. If this is not happening today, (Wednesday), it should happen before the weekend.

“The hostel has been open for 80 years. It is for many, a place of support and even their home. It must not close. Women in very difficult circumstances should not have their future put in doubt.

“The SDLP has also spoken with representatives of the hostel. It is our conviction that funding issues can be and must be resolved and this may include short term funding from the Housing Executive and government directly as the longer term future of the hostel is discussed and guaranteed.”