Derry housing crisis taking toll on mental health warn Councillors

Sinn Fein Councillor Patricia Logue.
Sinn Fein Councillor Patricia Logue.

Homelessness and a lack of social housing in Derry are impacting severely on the mental health of many of those on the waiting list, local Councillors have warned.

Elected representatives were speaking as they unanimously backed the Council officially supporting a campaign for legal recognition of the Full Duty Applicant homelessness status for those living in hostels or temporary accommodation.

A motion calling on the Council to get behind the #FDANODELAY campaign was tabled by Sinn Féin Councillor Patricia Logue at the full Council meeting in the Guildhall on Thursday. The Council will now also seek a meeting with the Housing Executive’s Chief Executive Clarke Bailie to see what measures the NIHE will now take to accurately audit the extent of the problem regarding homeless people who are not recognised as such, and what steps will be taken to remedy these oversights.

Colr. Logue said: “Currently the number of adults living in homeless shelters across the north who have been awarded FDA status is not a true reflection of the numbers living in this type of accommodation who should be awarded FDA. In fact on July 25, 2018 the recorded number of people living in the homeless shelter with FDA was 18 while on the same day the numbers recorded living in the Simon Community shelters was 78. That’s four time the official figure and there are many other homeless shelters, Women’s Aid for example, not included. This cannot be correct.”

SDLP Colr. Martin Reilly said his party was happy to support the motion, which he said was good timing as it came just months after the Participation and Practice Rights (PPR) launched the #FDANoDelay campaign and just days before they delivered their research to Clark Bailie. “This is a campaign led by a group of homeless people living in homeless shelters who are denied that FDA status and that as Colr. Logue outlined has a huge impact on their ability to find suitable homes.”

Colr. Reilly said the new PPR research showed that 74 per cent of people surveyed said it was seriously impacting their mental health.

Independent Colr. Gary Donnelly said the lack o social housing was a big issue. “I would say it takes up 90 per cent of the work I do. There is a serious problem here regarding the lack of social housing. For people not to have a home over their head leads to all sorts of problems including mental health, and unfortunately this also leads to people taking their own lives and I have had instances where people I was working with couldn’t take it any more. It’s a serious, serious issue.”

He added: “While I have no problem with the motion, I think it is tinkering around the issue.

“We need to get to a position where the HE is allowed to borrow on the strength of their assets and build.

“We need to be building a lot more social houses. That’s what needs to happen.”