The Welcome Organisation recorded a 35% increase in the number of individuals sleeping rough in Belfast in the first three months of 2019.
We have been delivering homelessness services in the city since 1997 and we currently provide five distinct services – Street Outreach, a Drop-in Centre, Crisis Accommodation for Women, a Floating Support service and furniture project – Welcome Home.
Our Street Outreach team recorded 134 people as sleeping rough 1,258 times, between January and March 2019, compared to 99 people recorded as sleeping rough 670 times over the same three month period the previous year.
Despite the increase in numbers all people rough sleeping had their basic needs met either through our Drop-in Centre, directly by the Street Outreach team or both.
Sandra Moore, Chief Executive of The Welcome Organisation, said: “Housing is a basic human right and no-one should be spending the night on the streets in 2019 but the sad reality is that in 2018/2019 we have seen a steady increase in the number of people sleeping rough in Belfast compared to 2017/2018; although on any given night the numbers vary from three to 15 individuals.
"Some of these have been long term presenters who can prove difficult to accommodate or sustain due to the complexity of their needs. We want to reiterate that rough sleeping is visible sign of homelessness and is certainly not atypical of the broader number of people who present to the Housing Executive annually.
“With more new presentations and fewer people being accommodated; the number of people sleeping out for more than two nights has also increased.
“There are a number of factors that are contributing to this steady increase including pressures on people experiencing homelessness couple with a reluctance of some to avail of the beds that are available.
“Welcome works in partnership with The Housing Executive and other agencies to ensure that that some of the most vulnerable people in our communities can get off the streets and accommodated, however this increase is alarming and should send a signal to our political leaders more needs to be done to reduce the numbers of people spending the night on the street.
“The consultation period on The Housing Executive’s draft Chronic Homelessness Action Plan to meet the needs of people who have experienced repeat homelessness has just ended. This strategy gives all those working in the statutory and voluntary sectors the opportunity to take a critical look at the needs of this group of people.
“Homelessness for many is more than a housing issue, a roof alone does not necessarily address underlying issues. As a society we shouldn’t be complacent about homelessness issues and the impact it has not only on individuals but also on families and communities.”
The Welcome Organisation’s Street Outreach service operates 365 days a year from 7am – 4pm and 6pm – 2am. If you see someone sleeping rough who you think might need our help contact our Street Outreach team on: 07894931047