Belfast Telegraph

NIHE homeless figures ‘worrying’

by Chris McCann

Almost half of the people in south Belfast presenting themselves as homeless to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) are having to rely on local charities and churches for shelter.

The statistics, revealed by the NIHE, show that in the south of the city, 498 people presented themselves to the Executive between April and September this year, with 57 percent being ‘awarded’ accommodation.

The NIHE said that this year the number of households in Northern Ireland accepted as statutorily homeless is up 11 percent —an increase from 8,934 to 9,914 on last year.

South Belfast MLA Jimmy Spratt said: “The number of homeless people in south Belfast is a worrying statistic.

“I cannot blame the Housing Executive, though I would say more can be done.

“But in many circumstances there are people who just |do not qualify for credits.

“I have a lot of dealings with the Belfast City Mission and they deal with people from varied nationalities. Generally people who move here and end up not being able to pay the rent, then end up on the street.

“I would say that the voluntary sector do a lot to help the homeless.

“The Mission on Dublin Road deals mainly with homeless people and organisations like the Simon Community do lots of good work too. The voluntary sector really must be applauded for all their good work.”

A NIHE spokesman 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.”

A Simon Community spokesperson said: “We are running a variety of Christmas collections and fundraising initiative. StreetSmart is just one of these.

“The scheme allows Christmas diners to donate a small amount of cash when paying their bill.

“It will help us continue to provide the invaluable services we offer.”

Pastor Malcolm Morgan of City Church on University Avenue said the church did what it could.

“Individuals in the church go out in the evenings to talk to homeless people and see what they can do to help,” Pastor Morgan said.

“We hold a Christmas day turkey dinner for anyone who is homeless, or lonely.

“We also provide food to the Simon Community and assist the people who work on the front-lines with homeless people.”

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