Belfast Telegraph

'Brutally shocking'- Nearly 150 homeless people die in Northern Ireland during 11 month period

A homeless man on the streets of Belfast city centre in 2016.
A homeless man on the streets of Belfast city centre in 2016.

Nearly 150 people registered as homeless in Northern Ireland had their applications for social housing closed because they died.

The figures, reported by The Detail website, related to the 11 month period from October 2017 to the end of August 2018 were 148 people died.

This means an average of 13 homeless people per month had their housing applications closed due to death.

The figures, obtained through freedom of information, were described as "brutally shocking" by Green Party MLA Clare Bailey.

Of the deceased, 63% were aged 60 or younger, with the youngest person only 18-years-old.

The majority of those who died were male. The cause of death for the 150 people is unknown.

As well as those sleeping on our streets, the Housing Executive considers people living in temporary accommodation to be homeless.

This includes people staying in the houses of friends or family, in hotels and in unsuitable conditions.

While rough sleepers represent the most severe and visible form of homelessness, they make up a small minority of those people categorised as homeless under legislation.

The Housing Executive said the 148 people who died need to be put into the context of the 11,877 applications it received for homelessness during the 2017/2018 financial year.

Eoin Ryan, from homeless charity the Simon Community NI, told the Detail: “Sadly, homelessness is becoming more and more prevalent in Northern Ireland.

“It could be the neighbour who lost their job and is worried about mortgage payments. It could be the colleague who has been thrown out of their home after a relationship breakdown.

“It could be the family moving in with relatives because they can’t find a suitable home with reasonable rent. In fact, it could be any one of us in a situation where we are unable to maintain our own home.”

For a person to be statutorily homeless they must meet the NIHE criteria based upon eligibility, homelessness, priority need and intentionality.

South Belfast MLA Clare Bailey, speaking to the Detail, said: “I just think they are really brutally shocking statistics. I have never seen those numbers before.

“I have known homeless people who have died, either as rough sleepers or otherwise, but I certainly never would have envisaged that the numbers would have been so high.”

She added that homelessness is “not just about not having a roof over your head” and that society needs to understand it in its entirety.

 “Rough sleepers are quite small in numbers, but that doesn’t mean the homeless crisis is a small problem, it’s not," she said.

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