Homeless claims increase by 40% in NI

Northern Ireland has a 'hidden homeless' problem, the Simon Community said. Credit: UTV

By Vicki Hawthorne

There has been a significant jump in the number of people presenting themselves as homeless to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

New figures from the Department of Communities show that almost 1,500 more homeless cases came forward in the first few months of this year compared to the previous period.

The latest Housing Bulletin Report for January-March 2017 shows that 5,242 households presented as homeless to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

That is an increase of almost 39.7% from the previous quarter (Oct-Dec 2016).

Single men and families made up the highest proportion of those claiming they didn't have a home.

The most common reasons given by those classed as homeless, or threatened with it, were that their accommodation was not reasonable or they were experiencing a sharing breakdown or family dispute.

Jim Dennison from the Simon Community in Northern Ireland said the latest figures are not surprising.

"In Northern Ireland we have a hidden homeless problem, individuals who are staying with friends or families, sleeping in cars, moving around from different friends," he explained.

"It's a different problem, it's a hidden problem and research has shown recently that there could be up to 100,000 homeless adults in Northern Ireland who are hidden from view."

Credit: UTV

The Housing Executive has said preventing homelessness is one of the key aims of its homeless strategy and has highlighted that while there was an increase in people presenting as homeless during the January-March, this year it said there were actually 55 fewer homeless cases over the entire year.

In a statement it said: "It should also be noted that the rise of 39.7% referred to in today's report was preceded by a reduction in homelessness presentations of 23.8% in the previous quarterly report."

Meanwhile, the latest statistics show that building work started on 1,883 new private homes here at the start of the year.

That's up on the previous three months.

Building also started on 1,604 new social houses. The average price of a new build was almost £161,800, an increase of 1.8% on the previous quarter.