Stormont plans new strategy to tackle homelessness in NI
A new strategy to tackle homelessness is planned at Stormont following five deaths on the streets of Belfast in recent months.
The Housing Executive has commissioned a review which new Department of Communities Minister Paul Givan said should lead to a blueprint early next year.
And it has emerged the minister closest to the DoC portfolio, Social Development Minister Lord Morrow, also established an inter-ministerial group on the issue which is to include Health Minister Michelle O'Neill and Justice Minister Claire Sugden.
The action follows the deaths of five people in the central city area who had been receiving assistance from charities aimed at helping the homeless over a four-month period.
They included Catherine Kenny (32), who was found dead in a shop doorway near where her former partner William 'Jimmy' Coulter had died the previous month. Police said a crime was not suspected.
Now in an Assembly answer to West Belfast MLA Fra McCann, Mr Givan said the Housing Executive is the "lead agency" in tackling homelessness. Its current strategic approach, which has been in place since 2012, is aimed at eliminating long-term homelessness and rough sleeping by 2020.
"The Housing Executive has confirmed that an evaluation of the existing Homelessness Strategy has been commissioned," the minister added.
"The feedback from the evaluation will inform the development of a new strategy due to be published in April next year."
Mr McCann said the issue of homelessness has always been very close to his heart, and that Assembly has a "major responsibility" to tackle it.