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Message from Simon Community NI Chief Executive Jim Dennison:

22 December 2022

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Crisis point

The number of people in housing crisis in Northern Ireland is at breaking point, surpassing 44,000 on the Social Housing Waiting List, according to figures released by the Department of Communities.

The reality is that more than 4,000 children will wake up on Christmas morning in temporary accommodation, instead of safe and secure in their own homes. For many this means living with their family in a cramped, single room in a hostel, hotel or B&B, a situation which should be a short-term arrangement but is increasingly becoming long-term. This is only set to grow as the number of people in temporary accommodation has already risen by nearly 70% over the last five years.

Cost-of-living crisis

There is no relief as we look ahead to the New Year when the full effect of the cost-of-living crisis will really begin to bite. Surging energy and food costs, along with spiralling rental hikes or the loss of private rented accommodation as landlords sell properties they can no longer afford, will leave many who had never considered it before facing the stark reality of homelessness.

Political limbo

Taken together with a political and policy limbo where timelines and funding for homeless strategies are frozen due to a non-functioning NI Assembly, we are facing a perfect storm.

If things continue the way they are going, the number of people becoming homeless is predicted to rise by 22% in the next three years, and as much as 30% in the next ten.

We need urgent action to address this looming disaster and protect the most vulnerable. Clear political leadership is required, together with cross-party support to channel money and resources into building social houses.

We need a joined-up Executive which thinks differently and acts differently, which sees housing as a fundamental building block of a forward-looking society. It is time to recalibrate.

Rays of Hope

The Simon Community NI has already taken the initiative with our Creating Homes project which will see us own or manage homes across Northern Ireland, circumventing a reliance on private landlords, providing housing directly to those who need it most. It means people experiencing long-term homelessness will be moving into their own homes and taking possession of their own front door keys.

We are also buoyed by the generosity of our corporate supporters including Deloitte, Smarts Agency, Galgorm Collection, Synergy Learning and JP Corry. Their commitment and dedication in creating awareness, volunteering and fundraising gives us the much-needed extra support we need.

And so, at this time we would like to offer them a festive heartfelt thanks, together with all our supporters and volunteers, groups and individuals who give so generously of their time, talents and donations throughout the year.

We also recognise the dedication and commitment of our staff who work in our services across Northern Ireland offering continuous support and respect to our clients – we quite simply couldn’t do it without them.

So, as we look to 2023 our promise is to keep supporting, delivering and championing on behalf of those experiencing homelessness, striving towards our vision of a society where everyone has a home.

We continue to work with hope.

Jim Dennison

Chief Executive Simon Community NI

The Simon Community runs a 24/7 helpline if you, or anyone you know is worried about homelessness, please call: 0800-171-2222.