Worried residents of Edward Street are meeting David Simpson MP today (Friday) in a bid to learn “all the facts as our area is being used as a major centre to accommodate criminals out on licence”.
Work has started on the expansion of an existing hostel from nine beds to 15, and residents fear it could be increased to around 28 in the long term, with Portadown the main rehabilitation centre for offenders out on licence, within the southern sector of Northern Ireland.
The nine occupants of the hostel have been decanted to two other facilities in Edward Street, and residents believe those buildings could be used in the future for similar projects. But a spokesman for Choice Housing (acting for the Simon Community) said the nine-to-15 expansion was the only project planned in Edward Street.
A spokesperson for the residents said, “We believe the offenders include high category prisoners who are being placed in the community as part of their rehabilitation. We want to know the type of offenders who are being accommodated, but have drawn a blank. We also want to know the cost, which has been estimated between £500,000 and £1.5m.
“The fears of residents are not being considered the way they should. We are being bullied into this. It’s tantamount to creating an open prison near the centre of Portadown.
Mr Simpson said he understood their concerns, “The fears of the residents must be allayed. I know nothing can be done to stop the hostel expansion. But the decision of the PSNI to totally vacate the police station in Edward Street is very unfortunate. It acted as a deterrent and yet the same PSNI is involved in the hostel project.”
The Choice Housing spokesman said one of the two ‘decanting’ houses belonged to a private individual. “It is being rented and will be returned to the private owner when the hostel expansion is complete.”
He insisted there were no plans to create hostels out of the other two properties - both in public sector ownership.