Ciara Ferguson MLA opened the event by highlighting the work of the APG on Homelessness at the Assembly. She outlined why Homelessness Awareness Week matters and the importance of starting to have conversations with friends and family about how we can bring about the change we need to see if homelessness is to be ended in this society.
The school children opened the event with a number of well researched statements on homelessness in this society. This included presentations on the causes of homelessness, how widespread an issue it is, and finished with a call for action from our local political leaders to respond to the reality of homelessness.
Nicola McCrudden in her contribution highlighted the brilliant work of the homelessness sector in this society responding to homelessness. She pointed to the need for more funding for the sector going forward considering the amount of pressure they are under currently. She also noted the vital importance of increasing funding for affordable housing.
The Minister for Communities Deirdre Hargey MLA then spoke. She pointed to the enormous impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on those experiencing homelessness and the sector which seeks to support them. She praised the sector and the development of collaborative working between Executive Departments in response to the pandemic. She noted that the Housing Supply Strategy will be published ‘before the end of this month’ and outlined why this Strategy will prove so important. She finished by stating that no-one person or Department will be able to bring about an end to homelessness- we need to work together to achieve a better future.
Deborah Reid followed on after the Minister. She outlined some of the current statistics around homelessness here and the work of the Housing Executive in seeking to respond to homelessness. She pointed to the important prevention work which the Housing Executive has funded in recent years through the Homelessness Prevention Fund and outlined the work the Housing Executive has got planned for the future.
The schoolchildren then asked our speakers several questions about homelessness here. One of the questions was “If a child doesn’t have a home, will Santa know how where to find them?” The Minister for Communities replied by saying that Santa knows where children are and ensures they will get presents at Christmas time. It was her job to ensure that every child has a home.
We are thankful to all of the speakers who took part in the event. Hopefully in future years we will be able to mark Homelessness Awareness Week in person.