04/11/2004

NI homeless figure falls by 8% in last year

The number of homeless people in Northern Ireland has fallen over the last six months, the Housing Executive today revealed.

The number of households found to be homeless from April to September was 4,244, a reduction of over 8% on the same period last year.

More than half of those who are found to be homeless are re-housed in permanent accommodation within three months, two-thirds are re-housed within six months, and 86% within a year.

The Housing Executive also revealed that 97% of all homeless applications are now assessed within 33 days – 2% higher than the target set by Government.

Commenting on the figures, Brian Rowntree, Chairman of the Housing Executive, cautioned that it was too early to call the reduction a long term trend.

“Last year the number of people claiming to be homeless levelled off, while the numbers found to be actually homeless remained virtually the same. Now, both of those figures have fallen.

“But there is no room for complacency. People become homeless for a variety of reasons that are outside of our control, such as the breakdown of family relationships, so the figures could change again in the future. However, we can control our response and we will ensure that we continue to refine and improve how we deal with this issue, no matter what the figures are.”

Meanwhile, Social Development Minister, John Spellar, today welcomed the publication of a consultation paper setting out proposals for tackling homelessness.

The paper, entitled ‘Promoting the Social Inclusion of Homeless People’, was produced by a review group which brought together people from Government Departments, statutory agencies and the voluntary sector.

The Minister said: "Homelessness is a serious blight on our society and we must do what we can to prevent it. It is a complex problem and the reasons why homelessness occurs are many and varied.

“Becoming homeless is often the start of the process which can create a vicious spiral of other problems leading to homeless people being excluded from society. It is important therefore that we do what we can to prevent homelessness.”

(MB/SP)

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