A housing support worker in Derry has predicted that homelessness will increase in the city this year.
Sandra Duffy from First Housing made the remark ahead of homelessness awareness week which starts on November 22.
Ms Duffy said in previous years events to mark the occasion have traditionally been held in Belfast but this year a number of events have been planned for Derry.
“This year providers in the Derry area have come together and decided that we wanted to run a number of events in Derry to highlight the number of people presenting as homeless here and to acknowledge the work of frontline staff who often go over and above the call of the duty to help and assist young people and families and other individuals who find themselves in this unsettling an upsetting situation,” she said.
The support worker also said many people underestimate the level of homelessness in the city. “Derry has a number of agencies who quietly work away in the background providing services to homeless people 365 days a year and it is often difficult to express and highlight the work that is going on as the media generally only see homelessness when there has been a negative headline grabbing incident or over the Christmas period when we can pull on the heart strings of the public.
“Unfortunately homelessness is an everyday issue. The Housing Executive’s figures for Derry 2012/13 saw 1,671 people present as homeless, with 968 accepted as Full Duty Applicants, that is homeless with a priority need.
“From the 1st April this year First Housing has seen 879 individuals referred for assistance with their housing/ homelessness issue and as we are only one of many services I would not be surprised to see a repeat of last year’s figures if not an increase with the economic downturn and the effects of welfare reform many people are struggling to keep a roof above their heads,” she said.
Ms Duffy also said a number of events will be held in the city to mark the week. “The highlight of the week will be the inaugural Homelessness Awards. These are awards that will be presented to frontline staff in an effort to acknowledge a the work they carryout tirelessly throughout the year. These awards will be held in the Guildhall On Friday 29th November at 1.30pm.”