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Executive 'must do more to tackle unacceptable rise in homelessness'

By Cate McCurry

Published 12/11/2016

Thousands of families with children across Northern Ireland are homeless, shocking figures have revealed. Stock image posed by model
Thousands of families with children across Northern Ireland are homeless, shocking figures have revealed. Stock image posed by model

Thousands of families with children across Northern Ireland are homeless, shocking figures have revealed.

Around 4,100 currently do not have a permanent home - a jump of 12% in the past two years alone.

The bleak statistics offer an alarming insight into the plight some families face today.

They were revealed after an Assembly question by Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs, who said the shocking statistics were "unacceptable". "More needs to be done by the Northern Ireland Executive to end homelessness amongst families with children in particular," he added.

"It is unacceptable that the number of homeless families is increasing.

"The Executive should be working to protect our most vulnerable and ensure that no family is faced with homelessness.

"A home is a very basic human requirement and the absence of a stable home and learning environment can set a child's development back from their very early years.

"I have asked the Minister for Communities what action he is taking to reduce the unacceptable number of families with children currently in temporary accommodation.

"The Northern Ireland Executive needs to do more to assist these people."

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Research shows that west Belfast has the highest number of families who are homeless, with 241 living in a range of temporary accommodation including hostels, bed and breakfasts and hotels. Many of these cases are single-parent families.

The Ballymoney area has the fewest, with just four families who presented themselves as homeless.

The news comes after this paper revealed more than £23m had been spent on emergency housing in the past five years.

The number of homeless people hit a record high, with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) spending millions of pounds every year on emergency accommodation. Statistics from NIHE showed that more than £4.9m was spent on housing people who were considered homeless in 2015 - an increase of £1m in four years.

By March last year, 11,202 people were listed as being homeless, the highest number since records began.

Director of Shelter NI, Tony McQuillan, said the figures exposed the "invisible homeless" problem" here.

"We are disappointed and very annoyed at these figures, but it shows the scale of things that's been happening for many years," he explained.

Responding to the statistics, a Department for Communities spokesperson said that tackling homelessness is of "critical importance to the NI Executive".

"That is why along with extensive investment in social and affordable housing, the NI Executive, through the  Department for Communities invests some £35.5m into preventing homelessness and to providing valuable support services to people, including families with children, experiencing homelessness.

"Homelessness is not the same as 'rooflessness' which means that someone is without shelter of any kind and sleeping rough. You may be homeless because your current home is unsuitable or you don't have any rights to stay where you live.

"Reasons for homelessness continue to be linked to wider societal issues such as relationship breakdown, debt, underlying health issues, or addictions. Therefore while housing has a central role to play, tackling homelessness, requires a collaborative response from across all in society including the statutory, voluntary and community sectors.”

Belfast Telegraph

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