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Communities Committee Visits Local Homeless Projects

The Assembly’s Committee for Communities visited two local homeless projects last Thursday, 8 December 2016 to mark Homelessness Awareness Week 2016.

Earlier this year, the Committee identified tackling homelessness as one of its key priorities for this Assembly term. Today’s visit to the Stella Maris and DePaul Housing First hostels in Belfast was organised to provide Members with an insight into the very real issues faced by homeless people and the range of services in place to support them.

Speaking after the visit, Committee Chairperson Colum Eastwood MLA said: “As families and friends come together at this time of year to celebrate the festive season, the issue of homelessness becomes sadly more poignant. But of course, homelessness is a year round problem and one that is becoming increasingly challenging, complex and difficult to resolve.

“There are obviously many and varied reasons why people become homeless. Issues such as access to healthcare, particularly mental health services, addiction, and the impact of recent welfare reforms can all be factors. If we are to tackle and resolve the issue of homelessness, then we must do so via a cross departmental approach.”

Mr Eastwood continued: “The Committee has identified homelessness as a central priority for this Assembly session. We intend to highlight this, increase our understanding of the issues involved and explore a collaborative approach to dealing with homelessness through a series of meetings, events and evidence sessions over this mandate. The Committee will also work directly with the Minister to make a substantive contribution to the Department’s homelessness strategy in the New Year.”

 Mr Eastwood concluded: These visits to the Stella Maris and the DePaul Housing First projects has been both informative and insightful. We have seen first-hand the excellent services in place to support those that are homeless, but also the budgetary and resource pressures involved in providing a holistic and person centred level of support.

“We have also heard the very personal stories and experiences of those who use these services. We commend them for their courage and hope that we can work with them in the future to help identify and put in place the support mechanisms required for them and indeed for all those who are homeless, to secure suitable long-term housing solutions.”

Notes to Editor:

Stella Maris:

Stella Maris, is a joint initiative between DePaul Ireland and Helm Housing. It was opened in Belfast in September 2005 and helps people who are most in need and vulnerable to make choices to improve their lifestyle by providing safe, secure accommodation with alcohol management support.  The hostel is a specialised accommodation service for people with entrenched alcohol issues and a history of extended periods of street homelessness. Further information is available here:

De Paul’s Housing First service:

De Paul’s Housing First service which provides a continuum of services for homeless clients ranging from street outreach, crisis beds, temporary supported accommodation and floating support. Further information is available here:

The Committee for the Communities membership is:

  • Colum Eastwood MLA (Chairperson)
  • Michelle Gildernew MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
  • Steven Agnew MLA
  • Andy Allen MLA
  • Jonathan Bell MLA
  • Naomi Long MLA
  • Nichola Mallon MLA
  • Fra McCann MLA   
  • Adrian McQuillan MLA
  • Carál Ní Chuilín MLA
  • Christopher Stalford MLA
Channel website: http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/

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