Tuesday 27 September 2016

Homeless woman who died on street knew we loved her, says sister

Linda Stewart and Nevin Farrell

Published 21/03/2016 | 16:38

Belfast City Hall Photo: deposit photo
Belfast City Hall Photo: deposit photo

The homeless woman who died at the weekend passed away in the same Belfast city centre doorway as her partner 'Jimmy' Coulter, who lost his life last month.

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Friends say that Catherine Kenny (32), from Downpatrick, Co Down, had reached rock bottom and had been failed by the system.

Last night Catherine's family laid flowers in the doorway where she was found dead on Saturday morning, on Donegall Place in Belfast. Candles were lit in her memory at the scene, which was covered with sympathy messages and bunches of flowers.

Her partner William 'Jimmy' Coulter - from Belfast - died in similar tragic circumstances in February.

A friend at the scene, who did not wish to be named, said yesterday: "We can't get over this, something needs to be done by the politicians.

"Catherine and Jimmy were partners and she had found it hard after he died and kept saying she wanted to be with 'my Jimmy'. It is heartbreaking.

"Catherine was a lovely girl and she always said 'I will love you to the moon and back'. She had a lovely personality."

Friends said Catherine had been living on the streets of Belfast for two years.

One message posted in the doorway said: "You can finally be with your wee Jimmy now and you two can party hard together up in heaven and have the child you said you were having. Guess what I'm still being Godmother like you promised".

Last night Catherine's sister, Lee-Maria Kenny Hughes, posted on the Hope Outreach for the Homeless Facebook page: "It is with a very heavy heart but I need to take this time to thank every volunteer from Hope that has assisted in the care of my beautiful baby sister Catherine.

"She was a handful and hard work but was loved dearly by you all. I for one can never repay you for your generosity towards her and I know in my heart she died knowing you all loved her. Heart Broken."

One friend in Downpatrick said he had bumped into Catherine in Belfast a week ago and she appeared to be at rock bottom.

He said there was a lot of anger around Downpatrick about how the system had failed Catherine, with cuts to mental health services meaning she didn't get the support she needed. He said he was struck by how much she had changed.

"She was so pretty - she had these sparkling blue eyes. But her eyes were dead last week. She had scars all over her where she'd been fighting or falling. It was a tough life," he said.

"She was in good spirits - she was drunk, but she hugged me. That was Katie.

"I knew she had been living on the streets, I knew a family member had tried to get her help, but the troubles the girl was going through in her own head. She found it hard to accept help. Her family are just devastated and this community is devastated."

The friend said Catherine had been a student at St Colmcille's PS in Downpatrick, before attending St Mary's High School.

"She was a pretty girl, outgoing, a bit boisterous at times. But when she lost her mother and father she went downhill. She was failed by the system time and time again. She had a lot of mental health issues that weren't dealt with," he said.

The friend said that the last time he had seen Catherine in Downpatrick she was living in a flat and doing well.

"But she had a drink problem, a drug problem, and serious mental health issues. And then she disappeared. I bumped into her twice in the last six to eight weeks and she appeared to be at rock bottom.

"It's so frustrating that in 2016 in a western country people are dying on the streets. The politicians in this country just don't care."

A collection is taking place round Downpatrick to help towards Catherine's funeral costs and a local school is holding a shoebox appeal to raise money for the homeless.

Police are investigating the cause of her death but a crime is not suspected. She is the fifth person to die in Belfast this year who had been receiving help from homeless charities.

Funeral mass will be held at 9am on Wednesday at St Patrick's Chapel, Downpatrick.

Belfast Telegraph

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