People ‘living for months in hostels before being recognised as homeless’, Belfast committee told

People ‘living for months in hostels before being recognised as homeless’, Belfast committee told
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People are living for months in homeless hostels before being officially recognised as homeless, a campaigner has told a council committee.

Jasmine Carbery of the Homeless Not Voiceless campaign told a Belfast City Council committee that she had been living in a homeless hostel for several months, and had to appeal against her original assessment before she received official full duty applicant status (FDA).

Addressing a special meeting of the People and Communities Committee this evening, Ms Carbery said she found herself homeless through no fault of her own in March.

She said living in a hostel some distance from where she was from left her feeling let down by the Government and invisible.

People can only be given FDA status after undergoing a Housing Executive assessment, and campaigners have claimed some can end up in homeless hostels for months before receiving FDA status.

They added that the delays are resulting in people “languishing unnecessarily” in temporary accommodation such as hostels, “creating additional strain on already stretched homeless services”.

Ms Carbery said campaigners do not want “blanket awarding” of FDA status, but instead to speed up the process.

People Before Profit councillor Fiona Ferguson commended the Homeless Not Voiceless campaign for its work following the presentation.

Campaigners also claimed that Housing Executive chief Clark Bailie has not responded to an invitation to meet them.

A spokesman for the Housing Executive told the PA news agency they were not aware of the invitation.

Mr Bailie also spoke to the committee meeting this evening, presenting the Housing Investment Plan 2019-23.

In correspondence with the committee, he said individuals must be assessed against four criteria as set out in the Housing (NI) Order 1998 before they can be declared homeless.

The four tests are: being homeless/threatened with homelessness, eligible for assistance, in priority need and unintentionally homeless.

He added that assessments are carried out on an individual basis by the Housing Executive and when enquiries are complete a notification of decision is given in writing to the applicant.

Mr Bailie told the committee the process is applied equally.

“There should be confidence that we do our job properly,” he added.

Marissa McMahon, an organiser with human rights organisation Participation and the Practice of Rights, said that in the last few months the group has supported 19 homeless people who had been denied official homeless status until the group intervened.

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