The group of 13 long-term homeless people took their cases to the upper levels of housing provision when launching the Homeless Action Charter on 16th September. Here is a summary of the changes witnessed by the group since:
Before the action
· 13 homeless cases spanning between 6 months and 30 months – a combined total of 220 months in cramped hostel accommodation
· Fewer than 80 housing points each on average after assessment by the Housing Executive and many submissions of evidence by other agencies
· Only 6 accepted as having Priority Need for housing
· 7 refused homeless status by the Housing Executive despite living in hostels
· 4 preliminary offers of housing between the group
· No homes allocated
Since the action
· 4 have received full offers of housing, 3 have been allocated homes
· 5 preliminary offers of housing among the other residents
· Priority Need status immediately granted in 2 cases where it had previously been denied
· Additional housing points awarded in 5 cases
“What does that say about the system?”
Francine McComb and her young daughter have now been allocated a home after spending 29 months in homeless accommodation without any sign of a resolution. A senior NIHE official wrote to Francine in August 2014 – two months ago - telling her not to expect any offers of housing in the near future.
“We spent years in the hostel with priority need points and didn’t receive a single outright offer of housing. Less than a week after contacting the head of NIHE I received points I'd been told to stop asking for and accepted a full offer of housing."
The group’s success in changing Housing Executive behaviour exposes major failings in how homeless cases are being assessed and houses allocated. Surveys carried out among more than 100 residents in Simon Community hostels last year found that 62% had been homeless for more than six months. These latest developments show that the manner in which the Housing Executive is dealing with homeless individuals is prolonging their homelessness by denying people the support they are entitled to.
“They met with me and offered me a house right away, saying they couldn’t believe how long I’d been off the radar. What does that say about the system?” asked Tracey, who has endured 2 and a half years with her 5 children in cramped hostel conditions.
The residents are now campaigning for the implementation of the Homeless Action Charter which calls for an overhaul of the Housing Executive’s system of assessing homeless cases and the ring-fencing of social housing for people moving out of homelessness.
Political support grows for the Homeless Action Charter
Since the group launched their charter in September, they have already gained the support of MLAs from Green Party NI and DUP in calling on the Minister for Social Development to implement the changes recommended.