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Turning the Tide on rising levels of homelessness – Nicola McCrudden

Every year in Northern Ireland, we recognise Homelessness Awareness Week to raise public awareness of the reality of homelessness. This year, it runs from 4th December and events are being held across Northern Ireland by a range of organisations.

The theme this year is “Turning the Tide.” As in many other parts of the western world, Northern Ireland is facing major challenges when it comes to responding to homelessness.

Over the last decade, the number of households who meet the legal definition of homelessness and are entitled to rehousing in Northern Ireland has more than doubled – from just over 12,400 in March 2013 to 27,000 in June 2023. This doesn’t include those who either don’t ask for help or are not entitled to statutory assistance, even if they have no place of their own.

Also, the number of households living in temporary accommodation has increased by 114% since January 2019 to just over 4,400 in November 2023. Around 4,500 children were living in temporary accommodation in August of this year.

Homelessness can have a deeply detrimental and harmful impact on those who experience it. The stress and anxiety of living in temporary accommodation without knowing where you are going to be in the months and sadly, in some cases, years ahead can take a major toll on people’s mental and physical health. People living in temporary accommodation can struggle to maintain relationships and build a life for themselves. Tragically, the negative impacts on children and young people can last into adulthood.

It’s easy to be pessimistic about the situation we are facing, and within Northern Ireland we are facing our own set of unique challenges. However, at Homeless Connect we believe that the levels of homelessness we are seeing here are not inevitable. The tide can be turned if the right approaches are adopted.

In the 40 years since Homeless Connect’s inception, we have supported our members as they have made (and continue to make) an enormous contribution to preventing homelessness and supporting people who find themselves without a place to call home, alongside our statutory partners.

But we need to be doing more of this and work together with new partners to create a long-term strategic plan to respond to the complex issues driving homelessness to help us to truly ‘Turn the Tide’, focus on prevention and finally end it, making it rare, brief and unrepeated.

By being one of the six flagship Homewards locations, we believe this is a pivotal moment to ‘Turn the Tide’ here in Northern Ireland as well as across the UK, and at Homeless Connect we are excited to work with like-minded organisations in Scotland, England and Wales, learning from each other and taking the journey together to end homelessness.

Nicola McCrudden is the Chief Executive Officer of Homeless Connect

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