Homeless Connect urges NI Executive to take urgent action in response to latest homelessness figures

by | Mar 14, 2024 | News

NI Homelessness Bulletin - March 2024

Homelessness Bulletin Published

Following the publication of the latest Homelessness Bulletin by the Department for Communities, Homeless Connect, which has worked across Northern Ireland since 1983 to tackle homelessness, has called for serious action to be taken by Government to prioritise preventing and reducing homelessness as well alleviating the continued pressures felt by organisations supporting those experiencing homelessness.

The statistics paint a bleak picture for the state of homelessness in Northern Ireland as the number of households living in temporary accommodation continues to increase. Over the last five years, the number of households in temporary accommodation has more than doubled. In January 2024 over 4,500 households were living in temporary accommodation, an increase of over 600 since January 2023 and a rise of almost 121% since 2019. 

Between July and December 2023, just under 8,200 households presented to the Housing Executive as homeless. This was an increase of 9% on the same period in 2022. Just over 5,300 households were accepted as homeless, a rise of over 9% when compared to the same period in 2022.  

The Bulletin also reveals that in January 2024, the number of children living in temporary accommodation in Northern Ireland rose to over 4,800 – an increase of 6% since July 2023. Of these children, over 3,100 were aged nine and under. 482 of these children were aged under 1. In January 2019, just over 2,400 children were living in temporary accommodation. The number of children living in temporary accommodation has increased by 99% since then. 

 In addition to highlighting the continued increase in those seeking temporary accommodation, the DfC Bulletin provides a geographical breakdown of homelessness presentations. Between July and December 2023, Belfast City Council area recorded the highest number of presentations at a rate of 7 presentations per 1,000 people (2,425 people). This was followed by Derry and Strabane Council who had 6.4 presentations per 1,000 people (964 people) and then Antrim and Newtownabbey Council with 4.6 presentations per 1,000 people (678 people).  

Our response

Commenting on the continued upward trends in Northern Ireland’s homelessness figures Nicola McCrudden, Chief Executive of Homeless Connect said: “These figures show that the situation when it comes to homelessness in this society continues to deteriorate. The number of households living in temporary accommodation has risen relentlessly over the last five years. Far too many people living here are simply unable to access the accommodation they so badly need. Far too many children are living in temporary accommodation, and far too many people are suffering the devastating consequences for their health and wellbeing of becoming homeless.  

“We at Homeless Connect strongly supported the restoration of the NI Executive and are glad to have Ministers in post. However, having an Executive in and of itself will not improve things for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness. This Executive needs to be laser focused on preventing and reducing homelessness here. The success or failure of this Executive will be determined not on what they say but on what they do to change what we are seeing on the ground. 

“The Executive needs to have a specific, standalone housing outcome so that addressing the growing housing and homelessness crisis we are seeing is a top priority. Policies seeking to address chronic homelessness like the development of Housing First and the Complex Lives programme need to supported and resourced. 

“Substantial investment in social and affordable housing will be crucial if we are ever going to prevent people falling into homelessness. The Housing Supply Strategy developed in the last mandate needs to be urgently put through the Executive and properly funded. We need to see serious consideration given to legislative reform to prioritise homelessness prevention rather than simply constantly firefighting. 

“The homelessness sector, which I am proud to represent, has been underfunded for many years. While other sectors have rightly received funding uplifts, one of the key funding streams for the homelessness sector- the Supporting People programme- has been left to stagnate. The value of the funding has eroded year on year ever since as inflationary uplifts have simply not been provided. Over and over again other areas of spending have been prioritised ahead of increasing funding for the programme.  

“This has had very real consequences for the sector which does so much to prevent and reduce homelessness. Providers across this society are struggling to recruit and retain staff. Some providers are barely able to pay above the minimum wage and are simply unable to invest in the training and support they know their staff need due to a lack of resources. These difficulties have been exacerbated by short term funding cycles with some organisations- including our own- operating on budgets which are only secured one quarter at a time. These realities have negative impacts on people at risk of or experiencing homelessness.  

“We urge the Executive to provide the uplift to the Supporting People programme that the homelessness sector so badly needs in the budget next year. The voluntary and community sector who make up so much of the sector should not be treated as a cheap option but must be properly funded on a sustainable, long-term basis. Warm words, while welcome, will simply not suffice. The blunt reality is that the sector needs resources if it is to play its part in effectively preventing and reducing homelessness.   

“We are not fatalistic about the future. We know that real and progressive change is possible and as an organisation we will strive to do everything in our power to bring it about. However, this will only happen if this NI Executive provides the leadership we urgently need.”  

Read the full Homelessness Bulletin from the Department of the Communities here.

You can read further analysis of the statistics here.


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