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We are committed to eliminating homelessness

Published: Fri, 27 Nov 2015
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Homelessness Awareness Week I HAW
Homelessness Awareness Week
We have the statutory responsibility for dealing with homelessness and our aim is that long term homelessness and rough sleeping is eliminated across Northern Ireland by 2020.
We believe everyone has a right to a decent home and through our dedicated teams of staff and working with the statutory partners, the private sector and the many voluntary sector organisations we are committed to eliminating long term homelessness. We are therefore pleased to support Homelessness Awareness Week 2015.
There are numerous reasons for homelessness; family dispute, breakdown in living arrangements, addiction, mental ill heath, debt and tenancy breakdown and so on. Our Homelessness Strategy focuses on prevention and we have a host of support services to help those who need assistance. Homelessness is more than just not having a roof over one’s head, it has knock on effects on the health, financial and social well-being of many in our society.
In partnership with housing associations last year 2,013 new social homes were started and there are 1,500 planned to start this year. Over the past five years, 7,598 new homes have been built.  
Last year we launched a Private Rented Access scheme in partnership with Smartmove NI. This scheme is available across Northern Ireland and allows those in need of accommodation access to good quality affordable private rented housing without a large, often unaffordable, upfront rent deposit. In the 16 months to July 15 this scheme has helped over 600 people and families access accommodation to suit their needs.
We continue to develop our ‘Housing Options’ approach which will ensure housing and support solutions are found for those who come to us in housing need. This approach looks at the specific needs of an individual, all their options and choices, exploring all possible tenure options, including remaining in their current accommodation to prevent homelessness where this is appropriate. It will agree the best housing solution for the person and ensure that appropriate support is delivered when and where it is required.
In Belfast and Derry~Londonderry we support the ‘Housing First’ initiative through DePaul Ireland which aims to place homeless people with chronic needs directly into permanent accommodation rather than a hostel. There they will receive intensive support appropriate to their needs in order to create a sustainable tenancy.
Our range of support services ensure help is targeted to those most in need. These include:
  • funding specialist accommodation and support services for victims of domestic violence, including providing a 24 hour advice and assistance helpline
  • funding an advice service for those entering and leaving prison in order that accommodation is available for those prisoners on release
  • funding support services for members of BME communities
  • providing a range of dedicated accommodation and support services and joint working protocols with the Health Trust to help vulnerable young people, as well as delivering housing and homelessness education in schools
  • jointly funding street outreach, drop in services and crisis accommodation services for rough sleepers delivered through voluntary sector partners
  • providing support for those with chronic addictions to address the causes of their addiction and achieve better life outcomes
  • jointly funding a multi-disciplinary team in Belfast staffed by social workers and other health professionals to assess homeless applicants with complex health needs and to help them access appropriate services.
There are numerous reasons for homelessness and for this reason no one organisation, or agency, can address these issues in isolation. Our strategy focuses on all relevant organisations working together to deliver housing, employment, health, financial support and welfare services to those who experience homelessness with the aim of eliminating long term homelessness and rough sleeping by 2020.
During this year’s Homeless Awareness Week we will be participating in a range of events and highlighting the work we undertake with other agencies and the voluntary sector to eliminate long term homelessness and rough sleeping across Northern Ireland by 2020.