UUP Alderman Ryan McCready described the figures, which saw cases standing at 2,084 cases in the past year, an increase of 90 from the previous year, as ‘unpalatable’.
Out of the 2,084 cases presenting 55% (1,146) were accepted as such with 1,250 placements in temporary accommodation.
In a presentation, Housing Executive Chief Executive Grainia Long told Council Committee members: “We are seeing a number of things happening at once. Pre Covid we already had challenges in terms of people who were homeless. Covid hit and because of social distancing it reduced the number of units of bed spaces available in terms of temporary accommodation so we had to look at other forms of temporary accommodation. As we emerge from Covid one of the major programmes ahead is a new temporary homes strategy for the organisation.”
Ald. McCready commented: “We have seen that no matter what the budget you get every year it still results in people being without homes and on the streets. I find that a bit unpalatable in the 21st Century with that size of budget trying to explain to people on the streets why there are no houses, I find it unjustifiable.”
Ms Long responded to the Faughan DEA councillor saying: “Homelessness is a very significant and strategic priority for the organisation.
“I haven’t seen anything like this in my career with regards to the scale of the demand, the nature of that demand, the complexity of the demand and how quickly demand is changing over the pandemic. We are seeing fewer presentations by older people and much, much greater presentations by younger people and that’s changing all of the time. We have to move with speed, we have reviewed our homelessness strategy over the course of the year and have developed an interim and a very action focussed document that is focussed on increasing the amount of temporary accommodation that is available and also now developing a new strategy for the next five years. Yes we are spending a lot of money on temporary accommodation but that’s money that needs to be spent for people who are in dire housing need.”
Ald. McCready then changed topic to discuss the housing of refugees from Afghanistan. “Have the Housing Executive received any requests either from the NI Executive Office or indeed the Department for Communities with regards to scoping out accommodation requirements or capacity within Northern Ireland and indeed this council area pertaining to the humanitarian and refugee crisis we have in Afghanistan? Have you been engaged and do you have a plan?”
Ms Long said no formal request has been received to date, however, early conversations had taken place. “We have had some very early conversations internally to ensure that we are as equipped as we can be to meet the needs of newly arriving households from Afghanistan,” she said. “We haven’t had formal notice to date but we are more than prepared to work with statutory partners to meet the need as it comes forward.”
Local Democracy Reporter