What is the Homelessness Strategy?
The Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) is the body who are charged with responding to homelessness in NI. They are required to provide assistance to those who present to them as homeless and to provide housing to applicants who fulfil certain criteria.
Every five years the NIHE is legally required to produce a strategy setting out how it and its partners plan to respond to homelessness during that period. The strategy sets out the aims, objectives and actions the NIHE and its partners plan to take over the next five years in this area.
The proposed aim of the strategy, which we fully support, is as follows: “Wherever possible homelessness should be prevented, if homelessness cannot be prevented it should be rare, brief and nonrecurring.”
The draft strategy has three main objectives:
- Prioritise Preventing Homelessness
- Address Homelessness by providing secure, appropriate accommodation and support
- Support customers exiting homelessness into settled accommodation
Does the Homelessness Strategy Matter?
Yes, it really does.
The Homelessness Strategy is a crucially important document. It will play a central role in setting the direction for homelessness policy here over the next five years. What may seem like a dry and technical document will help to determine what actions will be taken to prevent and reduce homelessness here and what actions will not be taken. It will be one of the main determining factors in deciding what services will be funded to prevent homelessness and assist those who are experiencing homelessness.
What is the draft Strategic Action Plan for Temporary Accommodation?
The Action Plan is focused specifically on Temporary Accommodation. This is accommodation provided on a temporary basis to households who have been found to be legally homeless, until a long-term housing solution can be found for them. At the time the Plan was written, there were over 3600 temporary accommodation units here in hostels, single lets and other forms of accommodation.
The draft Action Plan sets out what the Housing Executive, working with its partners, will do over the next five years to ensure temporary accommodation provision effectively caters for the needs of those who need it. The draft action plan includes a host of actions to be taken forward in temporary accommodation during the first year.
What do you make of the draft Strategy and Action Plan?
We believe the draft Strategy and Action Plan are positive documents and we welcome the direction of travel they set out. In our responses to the consultations, we make constructive suggestions which we believe would help to ensure these documents achieve their ambitious goals. You can read our full response to the Homelessness Strategy here and the Strategic Action Plan here.
A significant challenge which will face the Housing Executive in implementing both of these documents will be finance. The draft budget for 2022 to 2025 presents a bleak picture for the housing and homelessness sector. If the draft budget is not substantively changed to allocate more resources to homelessness it will prove impossible to implement many aspects of these documents. This would have a potentially deeply damaging impact on those who are currently experiencing homelessness and those who are at risk of it. We will be strongly advocating for a budget which gives the Housing Executive and the homelessness sector the resources they need to make a positive difference in the lives of those they work to support.
We look forward to working with the Housing Executive and our members in implementing the final strategies when they are ultimately agreed by the Housing Executive later this year.