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​Homelessness in NI

Homelessness is a shattering consequence of cumulative factors that can leave people feeling they have no support, options or hope. The effects of homelessness are devastating. We know that homeless people have a much lower life expectancy than those in secure and stable accommodation. They also have fewer educational and employment opportunities and suffer from stigmatisation and social exclusion - A large proportion of people experiencing homelessness also suffer from mental ill health.

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The reality of homelessness

The stereotype of homelessness is someone sleeping rough on the streets. That is not the reality, particularly here in Northern Ireland. Thankfully we don’t have the same level of street homelessness experienced in other parts of the UK and Ireland, but that can sometimes mean that people underestimate the problem, are cynical about the volume of people affected by homelessness, and are somewhat indifferent to the cause that requires support now more than ever.

Of the households presenting as homeless to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, 33% are single men with no children, the highest presenters of homelessness are males aged between 26 and 59, with a total of 4,350 cases. Being a single male who is homeless can mean that the likelihood of receiving support with housing is extremely low.

32% of those who presented as homeless are families, meaning that there are at least 6,000 children in Northern Ireland who are living in unsuitable, unstable housing (Northern Ireland Housing Statistics 2017-18).

What causes homelessness?

There are many reasons why people become homeless. Unsuitable housing (23.1%) and family breakdown (20.6%) are the main causes of homelessness currently in Northern Ireland; and other factors including loss of rented accommodation (14.7%), marital/relationship breakdown (9.8%), neighbourhood harassment (8.2%) and no accommodation in Northern Ireland (7.7%). Ill mental health; rising costs of housing; bereavement; debt; and issues with addiction, and other factors are behind 15.9% of the homelessness experienced in Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland Housing Statistics 2017-18).

A shortage of affordable housing is a key factor in the homelessness experienced in Northern Ireland. The number of applicants on the social housing waiting list in Northern Ireland on 20 March 2018 there were 36,198; with 24,148 households deemed to be in ‘housing stress’ (Northern Ireland Housing Statistics 2017-18).

How many people are affected by homelessness?

During 2017-18, 18,180 households presented as homeless to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (The Northern Ireland Housing Statistics 2017-18), which equates to around 55,000 individuals*.

Additionally, there is a huge ‘hidden homelessness’ gap in statistics, meaning that we can’t yet know the true extent of homelessness in Northern Ireland. It is estimated that between 75,000 - 136,000 adults live in concealed housing in Northern Ireland (The Homeless Monitor 2016); meaning that they would prefer to live independently but do not have the option to do so. This can result in overcrowding, unsuitable living conditions, the breakdown of family relations, and homelessness as a result of tensions developing amongst adults forced to live within one household; all of which can negatively impact a person’s physical and mental health (The Impact of Overcrowding on Health & Education).

*Based on an average household of 3 individuals.