Nearly 1,000 people now homeless in Derry
Shock has been expressed that almost 1,000 people in Londonderry are registered as homeless.
Almost half of that figure are in emergency housing or on a waiting list for temporary accommodation.
The Housing Executive has been accused of failing the people in the city, where some families have been forced to live apart.
It has prompted a Derry councillor to call for houses repossessed by banks to be sold to housing associations to alleviate the crisis.
It is estimated that in Derry there are 3,000 people on a waiting list for social houses. Of these, 500 have been allotted emergency temporary accommodation or are on a waiting list for it.
Tony Hassan, Sinn Fein’s housing spokesman on Derry City Council, is sceptical about the official figures, arguing that the actual number is much higher with many homeless people ‘sofa surfing' from one house to the next.
“I was shocked to learn that nearly 350 people are in temporary accommodation in Derry and another 150 are currently on the waiting list. The lack of social housing and the need for houses in this city is staggering,” said Councillor Hassan.
“We have families being split up, mothers and fathers living at one address and children living with grandparents or an aunt or uncle.
“The empty houses that are being repossessed by the banks should be used for temporary accommodation by the Housing Executive or sold to housing associations. This situation cannot be allowed to continue.”
Mr Hassan said that if there were no social homes for families on the waiting lists, then the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) must provide temporary accommodation. He accused the NIHE of failing Derry people.
A spokeswoman for the Housing Executive in Derry said the figures mark an increase of 14% in the past year and that overall for Northern Ireland the total number of homeless, according to its figures, is 10,433.
In a statement she said: “We fully appreciate the difficulties that people experience as a result of becoming homeless and are working closely with our partner agencies to provide good quality temporary accommodation, with a view to providing permanent rehousing.”
In the Derry City Council area, the number of people accepted as homeless increased from 714 in March 2008 to 932 in March 2011, according to the Housing Executive.
In 2010/11, a total of 569 placements were made into temporary accommodation.
This represented an increase of approximately 14% from those figures reported in 2009/10.