More needs to be done to tackle the problem of homelessness in Belfast after the death of a rough sleeper in the city centre, a charity has said.
The man, believed to be aged in his mid-30s, was found dead in a shop front on High Street by workers from the Welcome Organisation on Friday morning.
Police are investigating the circumstances of the death, which happened during a cold night in the city.
Distraught friends of the man gathered at the police cordon on Friday as forensic officers examined the tented scene on what is a busy shopping street.
Sandra Moore, chief executive of the Welcome Organisation, said the workers who found the man were very upset.
“Working in this field is challenging at the best of times, but when you have to deal with a situation like this, it’s so tragic,” she said.
“The workers are shaken. The last thing they expected when they tried to rouse this young man was that he passed over.
“They had known this person, which makes it that bit more traumatic and personal.”
Ms Moore said about 80 individuals were known to be rough sleepers in Belfast, with about 25 on the streets at any one time. She said the majority were single young men.
“There is still something not right, this is one of the best cities in terms of homeless services, and being a small city, services work well together, but we obviously still haven’t got it right,” she said.
In terms of the wider issues, Ms Moore said there was a need for better resourced and more responsive drug and alcohol rehabilitation services, as well as greater efforts to address accommodation shortages.
North Belfast MLA Caral Ni Chuilin said: “No-one should ever have to sleep on the street, particularly in the cold weather.
“But sadly, over recent years, we have seen rising levels of homelessness around the city centre and across the north.
“Homeless charities have been doing great work but it is important that the Housing Executive and statutory bodies continue providing support to people sleeping on the street.
“My thoughts are with this man’s family and friends at this difficult time.”
Alliance Party MLA Paula Bradshaw also expressed her sympathy.
“This is a tragedy and my thoughts go out to this man’s friends and family,” the South Belfast representative 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.”
PSNI Detective Inspector Kerry Brennan said: “Police attended a report of a sudden death of a man at the High Street area of Belfast this morning.
“A post-mortem is due to be carried out to establish the cause of death.”