Northern Ireland news

Report unveils Northern Ireland's growing problem of ‘hidden homelessness'

Ulster University Professor of Social Policy Ann Marie Gray, left, Simon Community chief executive Jim Dennison and Simon Community Head of Research & Development Karen McAlister

THE impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and increasing cost of living could lead to around 110,000 people in Northern Ireland becoming part of the 'hidden homeless' community.

This is when people often stay with friends or relatives, living in overcrowded conditions or are squatting without a home of their own.

A new report, which will be launched today at Parliament Buildings, examines who is vulnerable to 'hidden homelessness' and why, the barriers and challenges in seeking and receiving support, the impact of a lack of long-term funding for the sector and the housing supply crisis.

The research was commissioned by homelessness charity Simon Community in partnership with Ulster University and Nationwide Building Society.

Findings suggest some groups are more vulnerable to becoming part of the hidden homeless population including young people, single people aged over 55, domestic abuse survivors, members of the LGBTQ community and ex-prisoners.

They may not present themselves for support for various reasons or be accepted as homeless because the current assessment system in place can only provide accommodation for those who meet specific criteria.

Professor Ann Marie Gray from UU, who led the research, said it "highlights the damaging impacts that hidden homelessness can have on people".

"Too often, people do not know where to go to for help or find it difficult to navigate the support systems," she said.

Jim Dennison from Simon Community said: "We welcome the findings and recommendations from this new report, updating the current legislation to include ‘hidden homelessness’ will be key for homelessness prevention."

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