More vulnerable women could find themselves on the streets without women’s only hostel

A former Support Worker at the Regina Coeli Hostel warns that more vulnerable women will find themselves on the streets this winter following closure of the hostel in January 2022.

The hostel, which had been operational since 1935, was the only one of its kind in Northern Ireland and provided key services to vulnerable women.

Former resident and Support Worker at the Regina Coeli Hostel, Caoimhe Kinghan, said that the hostel “was somewhere for women to come for support, to get back on their feet” adding that the hostel “was somewhere safe and secure for them”.

Caoimhe, who has been volunteering with homeless outreach in Belfast City Centre said: “I’ve actually seen some of our girls sitting in Belfast City Centre with nowhere to go other than a mixed hostel, which they can’t go to because of past trauma and experiences”.

During the rally, which took place on 29 October, speakers from trade unions and women’s organisations spoke of the factors contributing to the need for a women’s only hostel, including the cost-of-living crisis, gender-based violence, lack of housing and transphobia.

Asked if the cost-of-living crisis had increased the need for a new facility, Caoimhe said: “we are going to find now more women on the streets this winter because of the cost of living”.

Following the announcement of the closure, staff at the hostel organised a sit in which lasted 12 weeks. The sit in was ended following assurances from the Department for Communities that alternative accommodation would be arranged for residents and that a new hostel would be opened by May.

Caoimhe added: “our fight now is to demand that the services are up and running as fast as they can.”

The Department for Communities was contacted for comment but had not responded at the time of publishing.

Author profile

Flavia Gouveia is a Liberal Arts and Politics Graduate and current Journalism MA student at Ulster University.