Belfast Telegraph

Woman (101) among 205 homeless people to die in Northern Ireland - 796 died in whole of UK

By Staff Reporter

More than 200 people have died while on the homeless register in Northern Ireland in the last 18 months.

It includes a 101-year-old woman and 25 others who were aged 80 and above.

Almost half were based in the Belfast area.

The findings form part of a major investigation into the scale of homelessness across the UK.

Most of those who died will not have been living on the streets, but were without settled accommodation.

Campaigners said too many still die in "hidden homelessness".

In the 18 months to February, 205 people here registered homeless had their applications for social housing closed because they were dead.

That is one person dying homeless every two days here on average.

The statistics were compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Working with University College London (UCL), it gathered details of homeless deaths across the UK in the last 18 months.

Nichola Mallon
Nichola Mallon

In Northern Ireland, the 205 deaths include:

  • 125 males and 80 females;
  • 26 people under the age of 30;
  • 82 aged 65 and over;
  • 87 based in the Belfast area, 24 in Derry and Strabane and 20 in the Newry, Mourne and Down region.

In total 796 homeless people across the UK died in the last 18 months.

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE), which released details of deaths here, said people classed as homeless include those living in temporary accommodation such as B&Bs as well as people on the streets.

There are different criteria for measuring homelessness here, so local figures will be higher than the UK.

In making any comparison with figures obtained from other jurisdictions, these figures are not taken from housing waiting lists and are the result of examining death certificates and would predominantly refer to rough sleepers and those experiencing chronic homelessness.

However, politicians say more needs to be done to address the issue.

Green Party leader Clare Bailey said too many were dying in "hidden homelessness". "There is a homelessness crisis across Northern Ireland," she said.

"The number of people dying while waiting to be housed is a shameful demonstration of the homelessness crisis.

"Homeless people dying on the street will always draw a headline.

"The reality is that many people are living and dying in hidden homelessness.

"Government and statutory agencies have failed these people. We need more social housing to tackle this problem."

A breakdown of the figures shows the oldest to die while registered homeless was a 101-year-old woman in the Belfast area.

The woman, who died in November 2018, was the oldest to die while classed homeless in the whole of the UK.

The youngest was an 18-year-old male, who died in the Newry, Mourne and Down area in October 2017.

Fifteen people died while officially homeless in the first month of 2019.

SDLP MLA Nichola Mallon said it demonstrated the importance of restoring devolved government.

"If we had a situation where someone was dying on our roads an average of every two days, there would rightly be a huge public outcry and crisis response. Yet when it is homeless people there isn't," she said.

"We need to ask ourselves why this is the case.

"Political parties need to be asked why the suffering of our homeless citizens and this loss of life isn't deemed important enough to get around the table for a talks process, never mind form a government and act to address this crisis."

The NIHE said all cases who had their application cancelled due to the death of the main applicant are deemed statutorily homeless. It said all cases would have been offered temporary accommodation until an offer of permanent housing was made.

It added: "An example of where a household may have chosen to remain in their current accommodation could be found in elderly households who chose to apply as homeless and seek alternative accommodation as it is either not possible, practical or affordable to adapt their current home."

The Housing Executive added the figures predominantly refer to rough sleepers and those experiencing chronic homelessness.

Belfast Telegraph


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