14 August 2008 Edition

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Homeless mothers threaten to squat in Stormont

Gerard Brophy

Gerard Brophy

Forty years after a Catholic family squatted in a house in Caledon to highlight sectarian discrimination in the allocation of public housing, two Belfast mothers are threatening to squat in Stormont’s Long Gallery. Both women are determined to take their plight and the plight of other homeless families to the heart of government.
Twenty three year old Karen McAuley mother of one and Miriam Conway (25), who is expecting her second child within the next week, feel compelled to take action to highlight lengthy housing waiting lists and practices which still leave Catholic families in North Belfast almost twice as likely to be homeless than their Protestant counterparts.
Despite being heavily pregnant Miriam Conway has been forced to sleep on a relative’s sofa with her six year old daughter Katie after she split up with her partner last February.
“The Housing Executive said we had made ourselves intentionally homeless and refused to recognise our plight. We’ve only got 70 homeless points and we need at least 140 before we stand any chance of being allocated a house,” said Miriam.
“I’ve just had enough and if it takes us to squat in Stormont to force the executive to do something then I’m prepared to do it,” said Miriam.
Karen and her daughter Francie have been homeless for over two years but have never been offered a house by the Housing Executive.
“We’re in a crazy situation. We have to stay in private accommodation for 51 weeks of the year and then move out because if we stay we would be struck off the housing list. We’re in a trap and there is no way out of it,” said Karen.
Commenting on the women’s plight housing campaigner Gerard Brophy said nationalists living in North Belfast are nearly twice as likely to be homeless as Protestants.
“The executive’s own statistics show that a Protestant in North Belfast only needs 90 points to be allocated a 2 or 3 bed-roomed house but Catholics need at least 139 points to stand any hope of getting accommodation. The whole system is crazy and something needs to be don” said Brophy.

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