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Trust blasted over ‘mass tower evictions’

By Francesca Ryan

FALLS SDLP Councillor Colin Keenan has called for an urgent meeting with the Belfast Trust after hospital staff were told they have to move out of Trust accommodation in West Belfast.
Residents of the Broadway Towers complex were notified by letter that they must leave the accommodation by the end of January 2015 in what Councillor Keenan is calling “a mass eviction”.
One of the three towers is currently vacant while the other two are home to some 200 people – mainly from the Filipino community and employed at the nearby Royal Victoria Hospital.
We visited the towers this week with Councillor Keenan for a chat with residents who say they are deeply worried by the development.
“There was no meeting held with residents,” said Arnel Jaraplasan. “We were given no preparation, we just got this letter saying we have to move out and some literature on the Housing Executive and homelessness. Everyone is panicking that we have to move out in the middle of winter, just a few weeks after Christmas.”
Arnel says they are even more perplexed by the development given that some improvement works were carried out recently.
“They have only just updated the windows and doors,” he said, “so this is a huge surprise. I have no idea where I am going to go. I am very happy here, it’s a nice and safe place. This situation is stressful and we are now in a race with our friends to find suitable accommodation.”

Corr Jadulco is a nurse who has lived in the complex since 2002 and works at the RVH.
“It is very disappointing,” she said. “This has come as a surprise to everyone and Christmas isn’t really a long enough time away to get organised, to move your whole life. I have a seven-year-old son to think about too and I don’t need this extra emotional and financial stress.”
Councillor Keenan said many of the tenants come from the Philippines and have told him they would feel vulnerable if they had to leave the security of the complex. He has also accused the Belfast Trust of being “disingenuous” and of breaking a promise.
“Some of the tenants have lived in this accommodation for as long as 20 years,” said Colm.
“Last year, along with Cllr Tim Attwood and Alex Attwood MLA, I met with the Belfast Trust. We were given an indication at that meeting that they were planning ahead for another three to five years.
“However, this news has come out of the blue with, seemingly, no consultation with residents and their families or, indeed, the staff that look after the complex. It is disingenuous given that many of these people moved here with assurances from the Trust that they would have accommodation. They feel that an agreement has been broken and there is palpable fear in this community. Given the recent hate crimes against ethnic minorities in Belfast, and other areas, some of the tenants who are from the Philippines say would not feel safe if they had to leave what has been a secure and welcoming place for them.
“I am absolutely outraged at this news and I have asked for an urgent meeting with the Belfast Trust who, I understand, say the accommodation requires substantial work to maintain and to bring it up to standard.
“Really this equates to a mass eviction of dozens of families being forced to flee a secure safe haven that has been their home for many years. I hope to meet with the Trust to establish what exactly has happened and why, and what can be done to help tenants,” added Cllr Keenan.
A spokeswoman for the Belfast Trust said the buildings are in poor condition.
“We have taken the decision to close Broadways Towers based on recent condition surveys which highlighted that they are in poor condition and require significant expenditure,” she said. “We appreciate the impact that this decision has on the residents, therefore we have been working with other statutory bodies to ensure staff have access to theappropriate advice and support.”
Residents are invited to a meeting tonight (Thursday, July 3) between 4pm and 6pm at Lecture Room 1 in the Education Centre (Elliott Dynes) on the RVH site.

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