Belfast Telegraph

Rough sleeping in Belfast increases by 35%, charity says

File photo dated 25/01/18 of a homeless person outside Victoria Station in London, as new figures suggest that more people are sleeping rough on the streets of England than at any point this decade.
File photo dated 25/01/18 of a homeless person outside Victoria Station in London, as new figures suggest that more people are sleeping rough on the streets of England than at any point this decade.

There has been a 35% increase in the number of people sleeping rough in Belfast, according to a homeless charity.

134 people were recorded as sleeping rough 1,258 times between January and March 2019.

It's an increase on the 99 people who were recorded sleeping rough 670 times over the same three month period in 2018.

The figures were recorded by the homeless charity The Welcome Organisation.

It provides homeless services including street outreach and crisis accommodation for women in the city.

A spokesperson said all the people recorded sleeping rough had their basic needs met through a drop-in centre or by the street outreach team.

"Housing is a basic human right and no-one should be spending the night on the streets in 2019 but the sad reality is that in 2018/2019 we have seen a steady increase in the number of people sleeping rough in Belfast compared to 2017/2018; although on any given night the numbers vary from three to 15 individuals," said Sandra Moore, Chief Executive of The Welcome Organisation.

"We want to reiterate that rough sleeping is visible sign of homelessness and is certainly not atypical of the broader number of people who present to the Housing Executive annually.

"Welcome works in partnership with The Housing Executive and other agencies to ensure that that some of the most vulnerable people in our communities can get off the streets and accommodated, however this increase is alarming and should send a signal to our political leaders more needs to be done to reduce the numbers of people spending the night on the street.

The SDLP councillor Paul McCusker called for more to be done to address rough sleeping.

"Even though the pressures have been reported we have seen no changes. Those who are homeless deserve better than this and better access to services," he said.

"We need to continue to highlight this plight to give a voice to those who often feel forgotten."

Ms Moore added: "The consultation period on The Housing Executive’s draft Chronic Homelessness Action Plan to meet the needs of people who have experienced repeat homelessness has just ended. This strategy gives all those working in the statutory and voluntary sectors the opportunity to take a critical look at the needs of this group of people."

"Homelessness for many is more than a housing issue, a roof alone does not necessarily address underlying issues. As a society we shouldn’t be complacent about homelessness issues and the impact it has not only on individuals but also on families and communities.”

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