“A homeless man who squatted in a Belfast apartment over Christmas to escape the freezing weather has been jailed for six months.
Robert Lewandowski, 29, used keys he had stolen weeks earlier to move into the south Belfast flat once a woman who lived there left for the holidays.
The Polish national took nothing during a four-day stay- he simply used a stove, watched television and cleaned up after himself.
Lewandowski pleaded guilty to theft and wrongfully taking possession of the property at Tates Avenue between December 24 and 28.
Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard on Wednesday that he had been sleeping in apartment block communal areas after losing his home and job earlier this year.
He stole the keys after spotting the door to the flat lying open and went in after a party on 5 December.
A lawyer for Lewandowski, of no fixed address, said he had left the property exactly as he found it.
He told the court that when the woman and her partner returned to find him there the defendant did not try to leave.
The solicitor said his client was apologetic, but had only gone in on Christmas Eve when temperatures were down to -10C.
“He let himself in to keep out of the cold. For four days he used the TV and stove to heat some food,” he said.
“He didn’t take anything, and he had four days and ample opportunity to effectively clean the place out,” the solicitor added.
But after Lewandowski waived his right to a pre-sentence report, the district judge said his theft and wrongful entry was without justification.
He was jailed for two terms of six months each to run cocurrently.
He also agreed to fix bail pending a planned appeal, although Lewandowski was not released as he had no suitable address”
This case has highlighted the housing crisis in Northern Ireland and the need for decent, affordable social housing for all. Robert Lewandowski squatted in the property through desperation – desperation to escape -10c temperatures. He took nothing out of the house despite having a four-day period of opportunity to do so and has been jailed for 6 months through simply following a survival instinct.
Robert lost his job and subsequently his home – and was turfed out onto the street and forgotten about. When the banks couldn’t pay for themselves, they were bailed out with workers’ money. It’s time for the working class to demand their bailout!
This group aims to build a support group in solidarity with Robert Lewandowski and to raise the awareness of housing & homeless issues across the board.