Sudden death of rough sleeper: Post mortem examination to be carried out

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Police investigating the sudden death of a man in Belfast city centre say a post mortem examination is due to be carried out to establish the cause of his death.

The man, thought to be a rough sleeper aged in his mid to late 20s, was found in a doorway in High Street this morning by staff members from The Welcome Organisation’s outreach team.

Police officers investigating the sudden death of a man at High Street in Belfast city centre. The male, thought to be a rough sleeper aged in his mid to late 20s, was found in a shop doorway on Friday morning. Pic: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

Police officers investigating the sudden death of a man at High Street in Belfast city centre. The male, thought to be a rough sleeper aged in his mid to late 20s, was found in a shop doorway on Friday morning. Pic: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

Sandra Moore, CEO of the Belfast-based homeless charity, said the staff members attempted to resuscitate the man, but unfortunately he had passed away.

“The person has not been formally named or cause of death ascertained, but it was sudden and unexpected. Our thoughts are with the man’s family and friends some of whom are members of the homeless community and are very distressed and being supported by Welcome Organisation staff,” she said.

“It is tragic that people continue to die on our streets despite the wide range of support being offered. The sad reality is that the individuals involved in rough sleeping are amongst the most vulnerable in society: all too often suffering mental ill health, drug or alcohol addiction or all three.

“It is not at all uncommon for people in this category to choose to spend time street drinking or taking legal or illegal substances and then either choosing not to return to their accommodation or take up the offer of a temporary bed in a hostel.

“While there is a pressure on beds in the city this doesn’t necessarily equate to the number of people sleeping rough.”

A PSNI spokesperson confirmed that officers attended a report of a sudden death of a man at High Street this morning.

“A post mortem examination is due to be carried out to establish the cause of death. Police enquiries are at an early stage and there are no further details at this time,” the spokesperson said.

Expressing her sympathies to the man’s family and friends, Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw said: “While many organisations and agencies are doing good work on the issue of homelessness, this fundamentally represents a failure to tackle its root causes.

“We need to see more investment in support mechanisms, with resources put into mental health, addiction services, family reunification and other practical support.

“However, unfortunately that is all too late for this poor man.”