Watch: Durkan claims Derry homeless being passed on motorway by people being sent from Belfast

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Mark H. Durkan claimed in the Stormont Assembly on Monday that homeless constituents are being ‘passed on the motorway by people being sent from Belfast to Derry for emergency housing’.

The SDLP spoke of ‘extremely vulnerable people with complex needs being discharged from healthcare facilities or released from prison and placed in emergency housing’ in the city when raising the issue of emergency accommodation.

"There is much more to tackling homelessness than putting a roof over someone's head. A huge concern to me and my constituents is that, while they are, at times, told that there is no accommodation in Derry and are sent further afield, they are passed on the motorway by people being sent from Belfast to Derry for emergency housing. Spend in Derry has increased sixfold in the same period,” he stated.

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Mr. Durkan claimed he is contacted on a daily basis about emergency accommodation ‘be it by a family made homeless; an individual in crisis, staying far from family; a constituent living near a hostel, worried about an increase in antisocial behaviour; or a service provider, desperately seeking GP access for clients who cannot afford to wait through red tape and bureaucracy.’

Mark H. DurkanMark H. Durkan
Mark H. Durkan
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525% hike in pop-up B&B spend

"The situation is not just desperate; it is dangerous. Accommodation that was once deemed a last resort has become the norm. The growing reliance on non-standard accommodation, such as hotels and bed and breakfasts, should be a concern for each and every one of us,” he said.

The Foyle MLA spoke of a large increase in expenditure on ‘non-standard’ accommodation over recent years.

"The rapid escalation in emergency accommodation expenditure has seen costs soar to an eye-watering £7.6 million in 2022-23. That is a particularly bitter pill to swallow when we consider that the Department for Communities seems to be, or is, unable to fund homelessness prevention initiatives, currently operating at a deficit of £7.4 million,” he declared.

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Mark H. Durkan claimed in the Stormont Assembly on Monday that homeless constituents are being ‘passed on the motorway by people being sent from Belfast to Derry for emergency housing’.Mark H. Durkan claimed in the Stormont Assembly on Monday that homeless constituents are being ‘passed on the motorway by people being sent from Belfast to Derry for emergency housing’.
Mark H. Durkan claimed in the Stormont Assembly on Monday that homeless constituents are being ‘passed on the motorway by people being sent from Belfast to Derry for emergency housing’.

Mr. Durkan argued that homelessness is a health issue that requires an urgent cross-departmental response.

"We are witnessing extremely vulnerable people with complex needs being discharged from healthcare facilities or released from prison and placed in emergency housing, away from their home town and support network. Individuals are left in a vacuum — untethered and grasping for support, which either is not there or is woefully under-resourced.

"Often those people are suffering from trauma, addiction, serious mental health issues and poverty, and are pushed even further to the margins of society by a system that clearly is not working.

"Their exclusion and marked isolation leaves them at risk of abuse, neglect and exploitation. It also leaves communities in fear and at risk of harm, given the volatile nature and, sometimes, violent past of some of the individuals availing themselves of emergency housing,” said the local MLA.

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Last year figures from the Housing Executive revealed that the amount of money spent on single lets, hotels, B&Bs and specialised accommodation in Derry/Strabane rose from £929,965 in 2018/19 to £5,815,335 in 2022/23. More money was being spent here than in Belfast (£3,693,826).

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