Following a second weekend of reports of no-one sleeping on the streets of Belfast and Derry, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has thanked everyone who is working so hard to support all those in homelessness situation.
Minister Hargey said:
“For the second weekend in a row, it has been reported that there was no-one sleeping rough on the streets of Belfast and Derry. This is very welcome news. This is in huge part down to the extraordinary efforts of the Housing Executive and homeless charities and organisations.
“The Housing Executive has a central COVID-19 planning team in place to ensure they continue to fulfil their statutory homeless obligations during this period, while implementing the latest government guidance on social distancing.
“Working very closely with my Department, the Public Health Agency, the Department of Health, PSNI, the Probation Board and local homeless providers, the Housing Executive is ensuring the protection of the most vulnerable at this time.”
The Housing Executive has approved a number of emergency measures, including the sourcing of additional temporary accommodation for those who are homeless or threatened with homelessness.
Clark Bailie, Chief Executive of the Housing Executive, said:
“The Housing Executive, together with our partners across the sector, is seeking to safeguard as many homeless people as we can from COVID-19, and to provide accommodation to those on the streets to protect their health and stop wider transmission. A key element of this work has been the urgent increase in temporary accommodation to address any increase in demand, as a result of the outbreak, as well as the capacity pressures on the sector and to ensure everyone who is on the street is accommodated.
“We are working closely with the Public Health Agency, the Health & Social Care Board and the sector to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on those people facing homelessness, which should ultimately help to prevent deaths at this time of a public health emergency. Specific guidance has been issued and the need for PPE and the testing of those symptomatic people who are experiencing homelessness has been identified.
“The model ‘Test, Triage, Cohort and Care’ is being adopted in Northern Ireland and those that are homeless have been identified as a priority for COVID-19 testing, which has already commenced.”
Minister Hargey concluded:
"I do not underestimate the challenges this situation presents to the homelessness sector. I want to thank everyone working so tirelessly and pulling together to support the most vulnerable at this most challenging time. I am proud of all your efforts.
“I will work with Executive colleagues to ensure this important area is resourced and people are supported.”
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