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Homelessness Must be an Every Day Priority

07 February 2019

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By Kelan McClelland, Head of Homeless Prevention at Simon Community NI

Kelan Mc Clelland
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Following last month’s death of a young man on the Streets of Belfast, there was as expected, an increase in media coverage and public dialogue on the issue of homelessness. While such tragic events do direct focus on the serious problems facing people who are homeless it is evident that the influx of attention is often followed by a loss of interest.

In January, the primary focus of media attention was in supplying heat and shelter for people who are sleeping rough – and while this is extremely important it’s only a small part of what must be a bigger and longer-term plan of action. 

As head of homeless prevention at Simon Community NI, my team and I know all too well the importance of a safe and secure place. Every day, we work with countless individuals to end their homelessness by finding emergency and temporary accommodation for vulnerable people.  We provide floating support for those who need help keeping their homes and provide advice to the calls received via our helpline. Our approach is to target homelessness at the earliest stages to keep people from sleeping rough and as a result developing health and wellbeing issues related to homelessness.

Unfortunately, though, for the wider public, these individuals and their stories often don’t see the light of day because their homelessness is often hidden or misunderstood. It’s often not realised that in emergency accommodation people still need help with heat and food. In addition, a person’s health and wellbeing can suffer when living in temporary accommodation. Whilst they may have a roof and heat they are ultimately experiencing shared living with strangers.  No matter how hard a charity like ourselves can try to make projects welcoming, they are never a person’s home.

To truly end homelessness, those making decisions must see the issue as more than a roof and a warm bed. The homelessness sector needs adequate funding to lift those most in need out of poverty, provide life-long homes and to deliver support that works. The public have a huge responsibility too – creating the awareness needed to keep homelessness in the minds of politicians and civil servants. When we look externally, we see successes when political will, funding and public interest are combined. Whilst Finland’s Housing First initiative and similar projects in Wales and Scotland may not exactly work for Northern Ireland’s unique housing problem, what they do show is results driven by innovative solutions. There is nothing stopping Northern Ireland from recognising that homelessness is a 365-day issue and putting initiatives in place to see homelessness ended rather than managed.

Help make every day a little brighter for those with no home.

£10 could provide activities at one of our hostels, helping clients combat loneliness by providing opportunities to socialise with one another simply click here and donate what you can today.