Simpson moves on hostel row

Edward St Hostel. INPT13-220.
Edward St Hostel. INPT13-220.

Upper Bann MP David Simpson has called for cast-iron guarantees that the hostel accommodation in Edward Street, for prisoners out on licence, will never exceed the 15-bed unit currently being improved.

The DUP man is setting up a meeting between local residents and the Simon Community’s agents Choice Housing, so that the assurance will be face-to-face, following a series of disagreements between the two sides.

Mr Simpson said, “I can empathise with the residents’ unease that prisoners on licence are living among them, especially in view of reported incidents over recent years.

“Residents fear that other houses in the area, currently being used to decant prisoners during the expansion work, may be converted into additional hostels in the future.”

The existing hostel, at 21 Edward Street, is being improved at a cost of £1,5m but Choice Housing insist there will be no increase from the numbers of 15 bed spaces.

In a statement to the Portadown Times, they confirmed, “This represents no increase in numbers since the hostel was founded in 1981 and we do not anticipate the creation of further permanent bed spaces.

“For more than three decades, clients have lived side by side with local residents and been accepted as part of the community. We have participated in extensive discussions with residents and community and political representatives at each stage of this development.”

But residents insist this statement is misleading. A spokesman said, “At the beginning, it was simply a hostel for the homeless under the wing of a Portadown group and then the Simon Community.

“The change to prisoners on licence came around 2010-12 and we were not kept informed.”

He added, “The extension work is now in hand and we have no option but to accept it. As Mr Simpson says, we want copper-bottomed guarantees there will be no further hostels created.”