1,499 homeless in the borough

Robin Swann. (Editorial Image)
Robin Swann. (Editorial Image)

The number of homeless people in Mid & East Antrim stands at 1,499, up almost six per cent on the previous year, a local MLA has revealed.

UUP Assemblyman Robin Swann described the figures from the Housing Executive as “shocking”.

He revealed them last week following a question to the Social Development Minister about homeless levels in North Antrim, pointing out that there were 1,417 people homeless in 2013-14 compared to 1,499 in 2014-15.

In the neighbouring Causeway Coast & Glens Council area, there were 1,084 homeless in 2013/14, rising to 1,124 by 2014/15 – an increase of 40 people or 3.7%, he said.

“We need as a community to see these figures on homelessness as human beings. Behind every statistic is a real, live person,” Mr Swann said.

“What do many in society see when they think of homelessness? Many may think of a young man sleeping rough in a city centre doorway, or someone drunk on a park bench surrounded by empty cans. While this unfortunately is the reality for some of Northern Ireland’s homeless, most homelessness is hidden from view, out of sight and, therefore, out of mind.

“But when we look closer we will see that hidden homelessness is a growing problem in Northern Ireland and those it affects do not all fit the stereotype that many in society have come to associate with homelessness.

“They are young people, older people, families with children, people in jobs, and they are sleeping on the floors and sofas of friends and family, in their cars, in unsafe accommodation, in squats, or anywhere they can put a roof over their heads. And from these figures, they are in our constituency.

“I commend the charity, the Simon Community NI, for undertaking research to explore the extent of the problem in Belfast, with a view to extending this across Northern Ireland, including North Antrim. I call on constituents to commit, too, to supporting the Simon Community’s goal to end homelessness in all its forms,” he said.