“You feel powerless...”
“People have a lot of things they’d wanna say and aren’t happy about a lot of things, but there’s no way for them to get what they want to say across and I think there should be a system.”
PPR is working in partnership with Simon Community Northern Ireland, on a unique and innovative project supporting people affected by homelessness, to use PPR’s Human Rights Based Approach to make changes in the services they receive and in wider government policy on homelessness.
The work has commenced at a time when the problem of homelessness, already deeply entrenched and accepted, looks set to grow as a result of government imposed austerity. On average, over 19,000 households each year have been declared homeless in the last five years. Enforced Repossessions of property have increased almost fivefold in Northern Ireland during the past three years (from 200 in 2008 to just short of 1000 in 2011). The NI Executive’s ‘Welfare Reform Bill’, now being progressed through the Assembly, has the potential to push many more of the most vulnerable to present as homeless and seek accommodation in hostels.
Simon Community NI is the largest provider of accommodation and services to homeless people in Northern Ireland and currently provides beds for over 700 new residents experiencing homelessness each year. The partnership between Simon Community NI and PPR is being carried out in accordance with a clear Terms of Reference and oversight body, which safeguards the independence of PPR and the emerging group, through this process.
The experiences of homeless people have been voiced during the early stages of the project. “If you’re skint, that’s it, you’re left to rot,” says a resident who has had to rely on a Simon Community NI bed since becoming unemployed. “I could be here forever at this rate,” declares a long-term hostel resident in Belfast. More than 100 residents have contributed to the project so far, their experiences helping to identify the issues causing so many to become homeless and often remain so for years at a time.
A group of residents organised through the project, from various Simon Community NI hostels, recently met with the organisation’s Senior Management. They put across their initial views and ideas about improving service delivery and their prospects of moving towards permanent housing solutions. The management team has committed to working with the group to address issues and implement changes.
Meanwhile the group will be using PPR’s human rights based approach to work with more people affected by homelessness, and working towards developing human rights indicators and benchmarks to progress their right to housing.
For more information contact Project Worker, Michael Moore (firstname.lastname@example.org).