A NORTH Belfast family centre is still restricting visits, despite many restrictions across the North having been lifted.
Mother-of-four Cara Brown (32) has been living in Glen Alva Family Centre on the Cliftonville Road, run by the Salvation Army charity, for the past 14 months.
Current Covid-19 government rules allow up to 15 people from no more than four households to meet in a private home and stay overnight.
With many restrictions lifted across the North, including nightclubs set to re-open on October 31, Cara cannot understand why she is still not allowed any visitors.
“I have been here for 14 months and have four kids, aged 12, 10, six and 19 months,” she said. “We aren’t allowed visitors in to see us. It seems very unfair given that bars, restaurants, cinemas, hotels – you name it – are all open.
“Most of the rules here have lifted. Even nightclubs are opening at the end of October. It seems this hostel is the only place with restrictions.
“Other settings such as hospitals, hospices and nursing homes are allowed visitors so many times a week as well.
“I want to be normal like someone living in a house who is allowed visitors. People are suffering in here. It is not just myself but all residents in here.
“We are allowed to go out twice a week for visits and see as many friends and family but they are not allowed to come here. It doesn’t make any sense.
“It means I have to go out of my way to arrange to see my family and friends.
“The staff are lovely and great help to us all but these rules and restrictions come from people higher up in management.”
North Belfast People Before Profit councillor Fiona Ferguson has been working with many women in the centre.
"Cara's story highlights how those in need have been impacted by the pandemic," she said. "Most people can now have family over to mind children, or just for much-needed company. Banning visits can take a toll on mental health and prevent tenants from being able to work.
"Staff at the hostel have been incredibly understanding but decision makers need to act.
"The Housing Executive have been made aware of these conditions and I believe they have a responsibility and a role here."
A Salvation Army spokesperson said: “Throughout the pandemic our priority has been to protect the families we support.
Some of our residents have said they feel safer with the restrictions on visitors – but we recognise people need to see family and friends and will continue to keep this under review.
“As restrictions ease, we’ll be working with residents, families and staff to ensure visiting can resume safely and that the risks of Covid are kept to a minimum.”