Belfast Telegraph

Homeless figures set to rise further

by Chris McCann

Over half of the people in north Belfast presenting themselves as homeless are still not being ‘housed’ — and one expert has warned that it’s about to get worse.

That is the grim reality this Christmas, according to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) and one local homeless charity.

NIHE statistics show that in the north of the city, 287 people presented themselves to them between April and September this year, with just 46 percent awarded accommodation.

NIHE say that this year, the number of households in Northern Ireland accepted as homeless is up 11 percent — increasing from 8,934 to 9,914.

The findings are of concern to Belfast charity Homelessness Services at the Welcome Organisation.

Director Sandra Moore said that a 11% increase in persons considered as being in 'priority need' is worrying, particularly as the vast majority of those attracting this status tend to be people with dependent children, who historically represent less than a third of all presenters.

“The vast majority of those presenting to the Housing Executive as homeless are single people who are not deemed to be in priority need — the half of these are under 25 — these are the hidden homeless,” she said.

“As the full impact of benefit cuts and the economic downturn is felt in Northern Ireland we can expect an increase in the numbers presenting as homeless; particularly in areas already experiencing housing stress where people are already under pressure and are more likely to fall into debt, experience unemployment and repossession.

“It is therefore critical that budget considerations include appropriate funding for effective homelessness prevention and support strategies.

“We at the Welcome Organisation are bracing ourselves for the year ahead as the number of people turning to us for help continues to rise - just at the time when vulnerable people most need our support the recession is hitting giving to charities. However we are seeing the reality of homelessness much more at the forefront of peoples thoughts than at anytime in recent history. “

A Housing Executive spokesperson said: “The Housing Executive’s approach remains focused on addressing issues that lead to homelessness and meeting the temporary and permanent accommodation needs of those who present as homeless.

“As part of our preventative programme more than £2.3 million has been invested in social inclusion, assessment, education, mediation, rough sleeper services and rent guarantee schemes.”

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