Rising number of young homeless in Fermanagh

Homeless 1

CALL FOR ACTION… Danielle Campbell from Proofpoint; TV personallity David Meade; Clare McClintock from Action for Children; and Damien Stone from Concentrix.

HOMELESSNESS among young people in Fermanagh is a ‘serious concern’ with 23 cases being dealt with by charity Action for Children and five new referrals alone in the month of  October.

Sonya Johnston, Service Co-ordinator at Action for Children’s Floating Support Service in Fermanagh told the Herald that youth homelessness is a particular problem and is made worse by the lack of any hostel accommodation.


“Many people don’t realise that there is a problem with youth homelessness in Fermanagh but homelessness can have many different faces.

“It’s not always someone sleeping rough with a begging bowl, it can be people who are moving around between friends’ sofas, who are experiencing a breakdown in family relationships or who are perhaps accessing homeless shelters or other services.

“Currently in Fermanagh we have no supported accommodation or hostel accommodation for young people which means unfortunately young people have to move out of the county to access such services, this can have a serious impact on their ability to maintain themselves in education, training or employment and it is difficult for a young person to have to leave rural Fermanagh and have to adapt to a new life in a city like Derry or Belfast.”

The stereotypical view of a homeless person as someone who is sleeping rough is outdated, but does still happen in Fermanagh insisted Sonya.

“The reality is that yes some people do have to sleep rough when they have no other options.

“Sofa surfing is categorised as being homeless because this is only a temporary arrangement and not a solution to the fact that the young person does not have any place that they can call home.

“We have come across young people who have been sleeping out in cars but this is very rare in the county, in our experience young people are able to move from sofa to sofa but this leaves young people very vulnerable and open to being exploited.”


At present the ‘Floating Support Service’ covers all counties Fermanagh and Tyrone working with young people aged from 16-21, who are either homeless or at risk of becoming so.

The number of referrals has increased year on year since Action for Children introduced this service in 2006 and they currently have a case load of 44 young people, 23 of these are from Fermanagh and five were new referrals received in October.

While the increase in the number of homeless referrals is worrying for young people there is support available for those in need according to Sonya.

“We are the only Floating Support Service for young people aged 16-17 operating in the Fermanagh area, Action for Children runs a 24 hour service and we work closely with our partners in the Housing Executive and Social Services to find suitable emergency accommodation if the need arises.

“We provide mediation and support to families where there is a risk of breakdown, leading to homelessness for the young person in the home, helping parents put in boundaries and working with them through difficulties in the home.

“For those young people where it is not safe to remain at home or do not have a home of their own, the Floating Support Service aims to find suitable and affordable accommodation in a location appropriate for the young person.

“The service also promotes independent living skills, we help service users to access and maintain education, training or employment and we assist with legal matters and skills necessary for maintaining a tenancy.”

She added: “We take a multi-agency approach to supporting young people and signpost our young people to other agencies that can help.

“With the impending welfare reform bill that proposes to eradicate housing benefits for young people under 25 there will be new challenges for young people and our service and we are currently in consultation about how best to meet them.”

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