Belfast Telegraph

Homelessness figures 'double'

The number of homeless people in Northern Ireland has doubled since 2000, a charity warned.

And the problem was likely to worsen unless 5,000 homes a year were built to tackle a longstanding shortage of houses, Shelter NI said.

More than 4,000 were homeless, with thousands waiting in hostels for permanent accommodation.

Shelter director Tony McQuillan said: "With the financial situation coming on board and tighter belts all round we expect things to get worse, we are not expecting a major change."

According to the Department for Social Development (DSD), between April and June, 4,623 people were listed as being homeless, an increase of 3% on the previous quarter.

Although the total can vary from quarter to quarter, Mr McQuillan said the number had doubled since 2000.

He added that the main reason for the steady rise was that not enough houses were being built.

During the boom, fewer low cost social houses were being constructed as people sought larger homes. he said.

Since the crash there had not been enough money to build more houses for the destitute, he added.

"Even with the massive increase in the private rental sector, we are still in a housing shortage," Mr McQuillan said.

He said street homelessness was minimised by keeping people in hostels and by the increase in private housing but added that unless people were working, it was difficult to cope with rising contributions towards their rent.

"Things are not very positive for people at the poor end of the spectrum. "

He said family break downs or the collapse of arrangements to share homes was also a major cause of homelessness.

Less money was being made available to help adapt private rental properties for elderly tenants who needed a downstairs bathroom or bedroom.

The Executive is committed to building 2,000 social homes a year but the charity chief said two or three times that number was needed, 5,000 per annum for a year or two to reduce the backlog.

Sinn Fein MLA Fra McCann said: "It has become obvious that unless the minister (Mervyn Storey) embarks on a major house building scheme then these figures will increase year upon year.

"Sinn Fein have told the minister that they would support any bid for additional finance to deal with what can only be classed as a crisis in social housing provision."

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