Housing

Northern Irish housing project among global award finalists

World Habitat Award judges commended Belfast's specialist housing development for people with dementia

International experts have hailed the life-changing work of a specialist housing project in Northern Ireland.

Hemsworth Court in Belfast was built to provide accommodation for people with dementia and cognitive impairment.

And judges from the World Habitat Awards selected the project as one of ten finalists for this year’s prestigious global prize.

Residents are supported to live independently at the dementia-friendly complex in the Lower Shankhill area of the city, and local people are encouraged to spend time with residents at regular community social events.

Claire Lemon (pictured above), has lived at Radius Housing’s Hemsworth Court for the past three years following a diagnosis of vascular dementia and early Alzheimer’s. She said she could hardly walk before getting a place there.

“I suffered hair loss from pulling at and playing with my hair continually,” she explained.

“My memory was going and I felt there was nothing to be done. That all changed from the moment I crossed over the door at Hemsworth. From that first day it was all about exercising my brain and my body. I got involved in many things – things that I had never done in my life.”

It’s  heartening to know that there are groups of people working together to ensure a dignified and improved life through adequate housing

The joint winners of this year’s World Habitat Award were a project helping more than 15,000 families rebuild their homes following Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, and the first “zero net energy” rental housing development for agricultural workers in California.

But the judges were keen to point out the merits of projects boasting housing solutions replicable elsewhere.

“Hemsworth Court shows how dementia-friendly housing can make a difference to people, making them feel safe and even helping reverse some of the symptoms,” said David Ireland, Director of World Habitat, funders and co-ordinators of the World Habitat Awards.

Leilani Farha, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, said all of this year’s finalists are “interesting and important.”

She explained: “They are helping so many people in difficult and vulnerable circumstances. Worldwide, the right to adequate housing is under threat. So it’s incredibly heartening to know that there are groups of people working together to ensure a dignified and improved life through adequate housing.”

Photo: Courtesy of Presseye; licensed under Creative Commons.

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