Northern Ireland

West Belfast homeless centre destroyed in fire

West Belfast hostel fire
Image caption The centre was destroyed by the blaze

The police are still trying to find out who set fire to a homeless drop-in centre in west Belfast.

The facility, run by the Welcome Organisation in St Peter's Square off the lower Falls, was destroyed in the blaze at the weekend.

The centre provides, clothes, food and showering facilities to homeless and vulnerable people. Alternative facilities are being provided.

The fire happened at about 03:45 GMT on Sunday.

"The damage is very significant, it will not be useable again," said Sandra Moore who runs the centre.

"One half of the building is gone, it has caved in and anything that was in the centre, we have lost."

The centre delivers clothes, food and showers to the homeless or people at risk of homelessness.

"We also offer a whole raft of support services - access to health care, benefits and housing advice," Ms Moore said.

The centre is open seven days a week from 08:00 GMT to 22:00 GMT.

"It was heart-breaking to see the faces of our clients when they arrived and saw what had happened.

"It was dreadful."

The centre will continue to support clients as much as possible. They were due to relocate at the end of January and a new building is being prepared.

SDLP councillor Colin Keenan said: "I am calling on any and all agencies who can help provide shelter for those affected by this blaze to do so immediately.

"It is hard enough to be homeless in the dead of winter without being able to rely on the small bit of support you turned to. So it behoves us all to do everything we can."