AS THE cost of living continues to soar, there are warnings Fermanagh families could be pushed into ‘hidden’ homelessness as the crisis deepens.
With many people who become homeless not showing up in official statistics or housing figures, a report published last week by the Simon Community, in partnership with Ulster University, highlighted the growing problem of hidden homelessness right across the North.
The research showed more than 110,0000 people were currently either staying with family or friends, ‘sofa surfing’, squatting, living in overcrowded conditions, or were in some form of housing crisis.
It’s not just a problem in the cities and bigger towns, either, with Belleek MLA Jemma Dolan noting her office was regularly contacted by local people here in Fermanagh who were finding themselves homeless.
And the problem is only likely to get worse.
“The impact of the pandemic and the increasing cost of living will push many vulnerable people into poverty and housing crisis,” said a Simon Community spokesman.
“More people are at risk of becoming part of the ‘hidden homeless’ community that has gone largely unreported in Northern Ireland.”
Chief executive of the Simon Community, Jim Dennison, welcomed the findings of the report and said “updating the current legislation to include ‘hidden homelessness’ will be key for homelessness prevention and to help services anticipate current and future need.”
“We believe that everyone deserves a home, but current demand for housing outstrips supply,” said Mr Dennison.
“The lack of social housing alongside record rent costs in the private rental sector are contributing significantly to homelessness. Improved housing supply will play a key role in breaking this cycle.
“There needs to be increased investment in social housing and delivery of more affordable housing for all including the private rental sector.”
Speaking at the launch of the report last week, Ms Dolan welcomed the findings and recommendations.
“We deal with a lot of homelessness applicants through my office and I know quite often constituents who do not have somewhere to live do not meet the threshold for support from the Housing Executive, so broadening the definition is a great idea but we need to ensure there is enough homelessness and housing support,” she said.
Her colleague Áine Murphy MLA also welcomed the findings of the report.
“Proper record keeping on the hidden homeless population could play a key role in preventative services and predicting future need,” she said.
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