Everyone should have the right to support, the right to safety and the right to a home.
That was the message from Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín as she marks this year’s Homelessness Awareness Day.
The Minister said:
“No person or family should call a hotel or a hostel a home. No one should have to make their bed in the street.
“I want to give a commitment today, as I did in my recent statement on housing, that I am prioritising actions to improve our response to homelessness so that we focus on prevention instead of management. Our future homelessness policy will also build on lessons learned from how we dealt with the Covid-19 crisis.
“Equality and rights are the basis of everything I do. Everyone should have the right to support, the right to safety and the right to a home.”
Looking ahead to Christmas, the Minister said:
“This year my Department will once again provide £150,000 to the homeless sector to provide gifts for those experiencing homelessness. The gifts will include clothing, gift cards and toys for children and I very much hope this funding will in a small way bring a bit of Christmas joy.”
Turning to the specific challenges of 2020, the Minister continued:
“In response to Covid-19, my Department provided additional funding of approximately £7m to the Housing Executive on top of the main Housing Executive homelessness budget. This included funding from the Department of Health to provide accommodation for those living on the street who had no recourse to public funds.
“I would like to acknowledge the dedicated work carried out by the Housing Executive and local homeless providers. They have helped to ensure the protection of the most vulnerable during the Covid-19 pandemic. This has been a huge effort by everyone involved and it is appreciated.”
Nicola McCrudden, CEO of Council for the Homeless, said:
“Council for the Homeless and our members are extremely grateful to the Department for Communities for this grant. It will directly benefit over 2700 adults and children currently living in hostels and supported temporary accommodation across the north.
“The grant will be used in different ways to provide personalised gifts such as clothing, toiletries and also vouchers for adults. And of course for children, there will be toys. It will also provide hampers for individuals and families and those who are most in need may get practical support with essential household expenses such as electricity and gas top-ups. Christmas dinner will also be provided on an individual and family basis.
“The money provided through this grant makes a huge difference. Without it, many of our service users would not get gifts at all this Christmas. It gives people a sense of normality and shows them that others care about them, which can make a huge impact in terms of their mental health and well-being.”
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