A poster campaign will begin next week by the No More Deaths On Our Streets campaign which will seek to highlight the ongoing homeless and housing crises by focusing on using publicly owned properties many of which lay vacant and others fall into disrepair.
Over the next few years available social housing will drop drastically, with warnings that in England alone 370,000 council and housing homes could be lost. Here, in Belfast alone we have around 20,000 empty homes a lot of which are falling into disrepair. An Empty Homes strategy was setup in 2013 to deal with the issue of empty homes that could be used, but due to ‘budgetary constraints’ the strategy had to be ‘scaled back’, fast forward to 2017 and the DUP manage to broker a 1 billion pound deal with the Tory government in order to keep them in power, to me suggests we do have the money.
The housing crises across Ireland and the UK is best gauged on the streets while spending time aiding some of the most vulnerable in our society, the homeless. In my time interacting and aiding the people on the streets of Belfast I saw and soon realized that housing and services are inadequate to deal with the current situation.
Over the past few years the situation has got worse, and this is in terms of drug addiction, mental health, housing, all of these things are intertwined. The longer a person spends on the streets the more likely they are to become addicted to alchol or drugs, they have a bigger likelyhood of forming a mental health problems. I seen this first hand and for anyone who struggles with addiction or mental health issues it’s almost impossible for them to transition from the streets to accommodation and maintain that accommodation.
So yes, all of these things are intertwined, all of these things must be addressed in order to effectively tackle the homeless and housing crises here. Over the coming months the No More Deaths campaign in Belfast will be launching a poster campaign to raise awareness on the housing issue. The campaign will focus on empty public properties and properties that have laid vacant for 5 years or more that could otherwise been used to house the homeless.
We know the money is there, so if there is political will among parties here, there should be no problem tackling this. Even if the will is there we aren’t guaranteed that Stormont will be functioning in 6 months time, then we face the prospect of direct rule.