Editor's Viewpoint: Homelessness calls for concerted action
The news that a homeless centre in Belfast has been forced to shut its doors is highly concerning.
It is inexcusable that, in a modern society with a welfare state, people have no place to call home.
Most people equate homelessness with those who live rough on the streets of our cities and towns - however, they are only a fraction of those officially recognised as homeless.
The official definition also includes people living in temporary accommodation, such as the homes of friends or family, in B&Bs, in hostels and in unsuitable or overcrowded accommodation.
Many people will find it difficult to understand how anyone can end up being classified as homeless.
Yet domestic disputes, the ending of tenancies and mental health and addiction problems can all be contributory factors, and those can strike at any time.
This was not simply a drop-in centre for tea and sympathy, but one where volunteers tried to adopt a more holistic approach, exploring the causes of homelessness, which led to 40 to 60 vulnerable people presenting themselves at the centre seeking help twice a week.
The work of the 32 volunteers at the PVN Homeless Drop-in Centre was commendable and reflects the concern that leads to so many volunteers, in a variety of organisations, spending some of their free time helping the vulnerable and attempting to get them back on a more stable path.
Yet this is a huge problem beyond the capability of any voluntary body to solve.
There needs to be inter- agency partnerships to explore the root causes of individuals' homelessness, offer treatment where possible and provide applicants with, or direct them to, suitable accommodation
An investigative website found last year that in an 11-month period here, 148 registered-homeless people had their applications for social housing closed because they had died. And most had died well below the normal life expectancy of both men and women.
Of course, only a minority of those were rough sleepers.
The rest were noticed, never mind mourned, only by relatives or close friends.
Do we really need to see more people lying dead on the street before a concerted effort is made to tackle the problem of homelessness?
As ever, the absence of a functioning devolved government hinders progress.