Man’s sudden death third at Ballymena hostel in year

Police recovered a knife from the River Braid in Ballymena on Sunday after the sudden death
Police recovered a knife from the River Braid in Ballymena on Sunday after the sudden death

The Simon Community insists it is meeting all legal obligations after the third death in a year in its Ballymena hostel.

The PSNI investigated the sudden death of a man in his 30s in the hostel in the Henry Street area on Sunday, but declared it was non-suspicious after a post-mortem on Monday. Further test results are still outstanding.

Police at the scene of the sudden death on Sunday

Police at the scene of the sudden death on Sunday

Investigating officers also arrested a 27-year-old man on Sunday on suspicion of robbery and assault but he was later released on bail.

North Antrim MLA and TUV leader Jim Allister said he had raised concerns with the charity but had been given no answers.

“This is the third death in this hostel in a year,” he said. “All of them were young men and all apparently drug related.”

He believes that the latest man who died was involved in an altercation near the hostel shortly before his death.

“This all raises serious questions about the operation of and control within the hostel,” Mr Allister said.

“The ease with which residents in the hostel appear able to acquire and use drugs causes me to question how it is being run and whether staffing levels are adequate.”

A “not unrelated issue” is the fact that it is being used by the courts as a bail hostel, although it is not formally recognised as such, he said.

“Recently I sought to probe the Simon Community about staffing levels and whether some sole person shifts were being worked, particularly in connection with the circumstances of a previous death. The refusal of the Simon Community to answer my questions has only added to my concerns.”

A spokesman for the Simon Community said that 150 homeless people died in Northern Ireland from October 2017 to August 2018.

“That’s on average 13 homeless people per month dying. Sadly, deaths within emergency accommodation services are not uncommon and we can confirm that in the past 12 months, three of our Ballymena clients have passed away.”

The charity is unable to discuss the individual circumstances surrounding each client admitted or any reporting of serious incidents during their stay “but can say that all legal and contractual obligations were met”.

It added: “We do know that Ballymena is witnessing a very serious drugs issue at the moment, which is leading to deaths within the community.”

• Some local residents have begun an online petition to have the hostel closed.