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Sinn Féin raise lack of social housing in south Down with Housing Minister

5 March, 2009 - by Caitríona Ruane

Sinn Féin MLA Caitríona Ruane met recently in Stormont with Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie, MLA, to discuss a number of issues including the lack of social housing being built in south Down and the inadequate support currently available for homeless people, especially those with mental health issues.

Ms Ruane said:

"This was a frank and open discussion that focused on the dire shortage of social housing that is impacting on towns and villages right across south Down.

"I made clear at this meeting, that Minister Ritchie needs to be doing more to provide supported living for the most vulnerable members' of our community including people with mental healthcare issues and those who for a variety of reasons themselves homeless.

"Over recent years there has been growing evidence that the NIHE is seeking to concentrate their resources on those households who are assessed as Full Duty Applicants (FDAs) under the homelessness legislation.

"The use of Private Rented accommodation, for example, is simply not sustainable due to market forces and local housing allowance levels and it is also wrong that decommissioned temporary accommodation will not be brought back into use despite the increasing housing waiting lists.

"In order to assist the homelessness sector to manage this period of significant change there has to be full and open consultation with NIHE regarding the future of Supporting People and the new Homelessness Strategy. This means additional capacity training and support required to effect this change, which has obvious resource implications that need to be recognised by the NI Executive. This the case for England and Wales where £42.5 million has been allocated by the Cabinet Office to manage the process.

"In the days leading up to the meeting with Minister Ritchie I met with representatives from the Simon Community and I would like to congratulate their community staff for all their hard work they do on a yearly basis.

"Every person has a fundamental right to a home and the Simon Community are always at hand to respond to the needs of the homeless.

"The service provided by the Simon community is outstanding as they are provide initiatives aimed at helping people get back on their feet by providing a direct access hostel which caters for both leaving care services and community support services.

"Throughout this cold winter I can only imagine what it is like to have to sleep on the streets and I would urge people to use this facility that is provided in both Downpatrick and Newry.

"With the worsening economic climate increasing numbers of families are being made homeless and Minister Ritchie needs to take this into consideration and make it a priority. The time for excuses must stop." ENDS

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