Pressures on homeless services in Northern Ireland could worsen this winter, it has been warned.
As colder weather traditionally sees increased demand on hostel services, Dr Ciara Keenan said the requirement for social distancing due to Covid-19 will create extra pressure for bed places.
For those who do get a space, she added that evidence showed that many could still end up being worse off without wider support services in place.
Dr Keenan, from Queen’s University, made the comments following the meeting of an expert panel at QUB reviewing approaches on homelessness.
The online event was held as part of the ESRC Festival of social sciences, discussing challenges in the areas of accommodation, discharge from institutions and access to health and social care.
“One of the things I found in my review of accommodation is access to very basic types of people without basic support can actually be very harmful,” she told the Belfast Telegraph.
“That would be things like night shelters and hostels. During the winter months we see an uptake in these types of services with the cold weather.
“So you’ll have more people in the hostels, but that’s going to be a much more difficult thing because of the requirement for social distancing. That basically means less beds.
“I think it’s just that there’s not additional services that help people get into long term stable housing. People who access hospitals and hostels tended to have worse health and housing stability outcomes.”
Nicola McCrudden, who is chief executive of the Council for the Homeless Northern Ireland (CHNI), said the pandemic had been “a testing time” for homeless services .
“Hostels are operating at reduced capacity because of social distancing and the need for isolation beds. At the same time demand for temporary accommodation is growing and likely to continue.”