Date: June 15, 2022

Linen Quarter Business Improvement District (LQ BID) has announced a new pilot partnership with Extern, to improve and prioritise community safety, tackle anti-social behaviour such as problem drug use, and support vulnerable people in the area.

The partnership, running until September, will see LQ BID fund the appointment of an outreach worker from Extern’s Street Injectors Support Service (SISS) who will dedicate their time to the Linen Quarter.

Whilst LQ BID has made significant strides in transforming the District over recent years, including the recent allocation of funding for enhanced lighting and CCTV, managing director Chris McCracken notes that continued strategic collaboration needs to remain a focus.

Supporting vulnerable people

He said: “There are particular hotspots in the Linen Quarter such as Blackstaff Square that have long been a challenge when it comes to antisocial behaviour. Businesses across the Square and the neighbouring streets deserve to see practical solutions in place in response, particularly as we move into this busy summer period and footfall increases. We also want to ensure that vulnerable people are supported and signposted to the services that can help them.

“I’m therefore delighted to partner with Extern to fund an outreach worker to cover the Linen Quarter area this summer. Combined with our dedicated PSNI Street Beat Officer, and our ongoing work with public authorities, I’m confident that we can collectively reduce instances of anti- social behaviour and help improve access to support.”

SISS deploys experienced staff to assertively engage with street injectors in Belfast and collect and carefully dispose of inappropriately discarded injecting equipment.

The service, which is also supported by the Public Health Agency and Belfast City Council, also administers Naloxone, a drug which is used to counteract the effects of opioid overdose.

Professional interventions

The team also work to build relationships with service users, in order to engage them on issues such as housing and healthcare and encourage responsible methods of disposing of used injecting equipment.

Iain Cameron, manager of Extern’s SISS team, said: “It’s wonderful to see organisations like LQ BID continue to support our vision of helping as many people as possible overcome personal challenges such as homelessness and problem drug and alcohol use. The negative impact these challenges have on mental health often leave individuals in vulnerable positions that require professional intervention.

“Put simply, the more outreach workers we can deploy on the streets and the more vulnerable people we become aware of in need of our services, then the more people we can help. I hope that our partnership with LQ BID is motivation to other businesses to take these issues seriously and alert us to those they become aware of that may benefit from our support. Our services range across a number of different areas including supporting active drug users into stable supported accommodation and addiction treatments.

“Our services are a vital part of the Belfast City ecosystem and each year we speak up for and support more than 20,000 children, young people, individuals and families across the island of Ireland. Our 650 compassionate staff members empower and enable those in need to change their lives.”

LQ BID works independently and with its partners to deliver specific improvements across its Belfast City Centre area to ensure it remains a welcoming and contemporary place to socialise and carry out business.

It recently introduced FLAXX – a new shared structure adjacent to Blackstaff Square in an effort to transform the area into a vibrant social space where visitors can enjoy arts, culture and outdoor hospitality.

Chris continues: “Having worked in city centre regeneration for two decades, I understand these are complex problems but now is the time for politicians, public sector leaders and organisations like LQ BID to work in partnership, right across the city, to address the issues of crime and antisocial behaviour and support our businesses.

“We also need to be open to fresh thinking and new solutions. For instance, enforcing the laws around drug misuse and drug dealing is important but unfortunately has yet to show record of reduced activity. As our partnership with Extern communicates alternative options can be more effective and supporting people into drug misuse related treatments and tackling the issue right at its root is a key part of this.”