It is time that we all face up to the reality of homelessness and accept that it is no longer someone else’s problem.

Jim Dennison is Chief Executive of the Simon Community Northern Ireland and writes for us about the impact of homelessness in Northern Ireland. 

What do you see when you think of homelessness? Most of us will think of a young man sleeping rough in a city centre doorway, or someone drunk on a park bench surrounded by empty cans. Whilst this unfortunately is the reality for some, most homelessness is hidden from view, out of sight and therefore out of mind. But look closer and you will see that hidden homelessness is a growing problem in Northern Ireland, and the stereotype we have come to associate with it is not the truth. They are young people, older people, families with children, and they are sleeping on the floors and sofas of friends and family, in their cars, in bed and breakfasts, in unsafe accommodation, in squats, or anywhere they can put a roof over their heads. And they are in towns and villages across Northern Ireland.

The truth is that most of us are much closer to homelessness that we may think.

A recent survey found that most of us are only two pay cheques away from homelessness; ten years ago, the figure was four. The impact of the economic downturn has meant that many of us are much less financially secure than in previous years, with 42% of households in Northern Ireland admitting that they have no savings. Most of us take for granted the fact that we will pay our rent or mortgage each month, but if we consider the reality, it only takes a couple of months without our usual income before this can slip, especially given that many of us do not have the luxury of savings.

When you think about it, homelessness may not be as far from our doors as we might think.

As part of Homelessness Awareness Week, Simon Community NI is launching its seasonal billboard campaign which focuses on the issue of hidden homelessness.

At present, government collect statistics on the number of people who ‘present’ to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive as “homeless,” of which there are some 20,000 people. But right now, no one knows exactly how many “hidden homeless” there are in Northern Ireland, and so little is being done to address the problem.

Simon Community NI will be undertaking research to explore the extent of the problem so that we can start taking steps to tackle it. Homelessness is unacceptable, and no one should have to go to sleep at night without a roof over their head, or worrying about where they might sleep the night after.

It is time that we all face up to the reality of homelessness and accept that it is no longer someone else’s problem. Homelessness can be eradicated – and we need to act now.


  • I have been here and done more 10k hours than anyone in any of the ‘charities’, since leaving my position in one of the biggest Homeless ‘charities’. One that makes News-ads for Xmas, yet we never see then on the ground, at anytime.

    In that time, I have spent my time testing the charities, under various names, and recording the results, while at the same time interviewing a lot of RoughSleepers, and Homeless. There are some sickening facts to be published. At no point, regardless of the number of letters, have I secured ‘one’ sandwich from any.

    I am sure that Jim Dennison, Chief Executive of the Simon Community Northern Ireland, has integrity, and his heart is in the right place, but many Homeless ‘charities’ are not so.

    There are problems of looking at it from the Homeless point of view, instead of the RoughSleepers point of view.

    The RoughSleepers are less likely than the Homeless to be Drinking, Drugging, Smoking, Benefit Scamming, Begging, Cloaked begging, Church scamming, than the Homeless, yet cannot access the free food that is available to the Homeless, because they don’t get benefits.

    The word Homeless has been abused by too many fake ‘charities’ to make money for themselves. By its continually finding new ways to incorporate extra people into the numbers, so that they can claim more grants, awards, higher salaries, etc, it has now bulked up the number to 1200 Homeless for each RoughSleeper.

    If you are F&F of some of these charities, you will know that to claim Homeless, you only have to claim that you slept on your wife’s/parents/friends settee for one night, and are now eligible for all kinds of freebies, including having a getout of worksearch obligations, council tax, free food from the F&F ‘charities’. Not all are genuine, many are on this bandwagon.

    It is totally unfair, that the ones that are genuinely RoughSleeping, without benefits, get nothing from these ‘charities’. It is also unfair that so many people, on both sides, are living on our backs, for the emotion that we generate. Yet, would watch us die, rather than feed us, because that would generate more emotion, and money, for themselves.

    We need to get back to true numbers that can be addressed & remedied. Whilst fraud exists on both sides of this equation, there will never be the incentive, and it will not be possible, to sort the small numbers problem.

    Regardless of the small number of charities that are genuine, the only way that this can be addressed, is for this work to be taken out of the hands of the charities, and placed in the hands of government, whose interests are not to bulk up the numbers, as they are on a fixed salary.

    Meanwhile, and until that happens, a happy Xmas to all, and especially any genuine charities out there that suffer as a result of others.

    (9.0456 x 10K hours expertise, Boots on the ground, 3769 Days, @ 1.4911 pence/day) @

  • murdockp

    I need an education here I feel. I understand that many homeless do not have the skills necessary to live in a house and find it very difficult dealing with rent, bills etc

    The thing I don’t get is the number of boarded up properties in NI. Common sense says get these houses back into habitual use before turning sods on New ones.

  • Fascinating insight – thank you.

  • I’ve seen a large number of privately owned properties boarded up because it appears the development failed, someone is ‘sitting’ on the property for some reason or perhaps the individual property is in the hands of the bank or such.

    I’m not sure why NIHE properties are boarded up when they could be used….too much damage to repair or troublesome local issues perhaps.

    I know it has been commented on Slugger a few times that simply providing a bed isn’t a complete fix for a number of people.