1 December 2016
Communities Minister Paul Givan MLA has set out the Executive’s commitment to tackling homelessness in Northern Ireland.
Speaking at the start of Homelessness Awareness Week (30 Nov – 8 Dec), which this year is celebrating its 10th Anniversary, the Minister outlined how the Northern Ireland Executive, through the Department for Communities, is investing over £35million to prevent homelessness and to provide vital support services including hostels, ‘crash’ beds and outreach services.
With the reasons for homelessness continuing to be linked to wider societal issues such as relationship breakdown, debt, underlying health issues, and addictions, the Minister said his Department will drive forward an inter-Departmental piece of work to ensure the Executive is working collectively to tackle this important issue.
Minister Givan said: “The role of Communities is vast but it is safe to say that one of the most important issues within my portfolio is to ensure that everyone has somewhere safe and secure to call home. Homelessness in our society can take different forms from those who may have a roof over their head such as those living in hostel accommodation, with friends or family or in unsuitable accommodation to the more visible and extreme situation of those who sleep rough on our streets. Regardless the circumstances, there is no place for homelessness in Northern Ireland and I, along with my Executive colleagues are committed to tackling this complex issue.”
Speaking about the £35million funding for 2016/17, the Minister continued: “I have seen first-hand the impact of this investment and the services provided by Depaul, Extern and others that make a difference to people’s lives. I have talked to those individuals who find themselves in very difficult circumstances and rely on the vital support services provided by these organisations. I cannot emphasise enough the contribution these services make to giving people a second chance and an opportunity to turn their lives around.”
Looking ahead the Minister continued: “The draft Programme for Government (PfG) recognises the importance of tackling homelessness. With an overall goal of delivering improved wellbeing for all our citizens, the Draft PfG sets out a range of key actions that will help ensure that homelessness has no place in Northern Ireland. These include a new Homelessness Strategy with a core focus on prevention and addressing chronic homelessness, an additional 9,600 social homes, supporting first-time buyers to purchase a new home, maintaining effective advice services which prevent homelessness, ensuring that the private rented sector is a good housing option for everyone including families and providing support to people to live independently.”
The Minister concluded: “I have listened to the views expressed by the homelessness sector who have called on us to do work more collaboratively with Executive colleagues across Government to prevent homelessness and provide access to vital services for some of our most vulnerable people. I commit today that this Executive will deliver on that call. I have tasked my officials to work with their colleagues across Government so that we can collectively understand what more needs to be done. This work will lead to a focused action plan which will support the new Homelessness Strategy and make a real difference to tackling this complex issue.”