Understanding Homelessness

Understanding Homelessness

Background for Teachers

What is homelessness?

Homelessness is a nationwide problem that affects society today. Homelessness is measured in different ways across the United Kingdom. The 2016 Homelessness Monitor stated that: ‘statutory homelessness rose significantly in Northern Ireland during the early 2000s and has remained at historically high levels since 2005–6.’

Homelessness is defined as not having a home. People often think this means that you are living rough on the streets, but you can be homeless even if you have somewhere to live.

A recent street needs audit (2016) stated that visible rough sleeping levels remain low in places such as Belfast city centre, which averages six people per night. An estimated 18,573 households presented as homeless during the period 2016/17 in Northern Ireland.

We need to understand what constitutes homelessness. According to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) you may be homeless if you are:

  • sleeping on the streets;
  • staying with friends or family;
  • staying in a hostel;
  • staying in a bed and breakfast;
  • living in very overcrowded conditions;
  • at risk of violence if you stay in your home;
  • living in poor conditions that are damaging your health; or
  • living in a house that is unsuitable for you.

Factors leading to homelessness include:

  • lack of affordable housing;
  • unemployment;
  • poverty;
  • poor physical or mental health;
  • drug and alcohol abuse;
  • gambling;
  • family and relationship issues; or
  • domestic violence.

To determine whether you are eligible for homeless assistance, the Housing Executive uses these four criteria:

  1. Are you homeless?
  2. Are you about to become homeless?
  3. Are you in priority need?
  4. Are you intentionally homeless?

The NIHE applies a points system under these four headings to decide whether you are entitled to help and your need is greater than that of others.

The types of housing available in Northern Ireland are:

  • owner-occupier;
  • private rented house or flat;
  • social housing, for example housing association;
  • emergency housing, for example shelter;
  • bed and breakfast;
  • hall of residence;
  • hostel;
  • tied accommodation; and
  • supported accommodation.