Families call for more support for homeless battling addiction in Belfast city centre

Families of young people who have recently died on the streets or while in temporary accommodation, have come together to urgently call for more support for those battling addictions.

Their message, at a vigil organised by Belfast Homeless Services, is that their loved ones' lives mattered.

It comes after Belfast city councillors were recently briefed by police that there have been 15 drugs related deaths in the city since June.

Natalie Fleming's brother Dean was homeless for less than a year when he died from a mix of alcohol and drugs.

She said extra support could have made all the difference for the 25 year old.

"He wasn't getting proper treatment. No-one really helped. A listening ear can make all the difference,” she told UTV.

27 year old Patrick McIlroy died in Belfast city centre in June. The family of the former mental health support worker say people need more addiction education.

His sister Emma said: "No-one wakes up one day and thinks they want to do drugs. When I think of Patrick, I think of that wee smiling boy."

"What's going on isn't invisible. It's just that people are choosing not to see it."

At the vigil, the director of Belfast Homeless Services James McGinn added his voice to growing calls for a centralised hub to support those struggling with addictions.

"We need to come together to deliver cohesion and a strategy that provides one centre for the city of Belfast."

Martina McIlroy, Patrick's cousin, called on the Executive to get back around the table: "We have a pandemic of addiction, suicide and mental health. They need to get in their seats and realise this is also a pandemic."

On Sunday night hundreds of people attended a candlelit vigil at Belfast City Hall to remember those who died and call for action.

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