Charities call for rethink on homelessness

Mental Health and Homelessness Report Launch: Mental Health Ambassador Professor Siobhan O’Neill and Belfast City Lord Mayor Christina Black with the report authors Karen McAlister (Simon) and Deirdre Canavan (Depaul) 
  • Survey reveals almost 70% of those accessing Simon Community NI and Depaul services struggle with mental health challenges
  • Call for a specific action plan for those experiencing homelessness within the Mental Health Strategy

Simon Community NI and Depaul have launched new research that highlights the significant inter-relationship between mental health and homelessness. In the study conducted with people across Northern Ireland experiencing homelessness, almost 70% had a diagnosed mental health condition. The overwhelming majority (84%) had received this diagnosis before becoming homeless.

The report ‘Mental Health & Homelessness’ identifies homelessness as more than a housing issue, but the consequence of multiple disadvantages, with mental health both playing a role and having an impact. It reveals a catastrophic situation that cannot be ignored.  The report calls on politicians and decision makers to stop thinking that homelessness is just a housing issue, but identify it as a fundamental health issue that requires urgent action.

Simon Community NI Chief Executive Jim Dennison said, “Homelessness is both stigmatising and isolating and can be a cause and consequence of mental illness. We need to ensure we have the right measures in place to support people who are struggling. We need a legal basis that pushes statutory bodies with responsibility for housing, health and social care, justice and education to cooperate and find more effective solutions. We also need a focus on homelessness written into the Mental Health Strategy.”

Depaul Chief Executive David Carroll said, “The reality of providing support for people experiencing homelessness is that it needs to be multifaceted. It requires much more than just housing related support, which is why we are also calling for additional investment to enable staff from homeless providers to be trained on Trauma Informed Care, to better support the complexity of needs and issues experienced by people within homelessness services.”

Northern Ireland Mental Health Champion Professor Siobhan O’Neill said: “It is essential that people can access the right support at the right time, “There needs to be a specific action plan for people experiencing homelessness within the Mental Health Strategy. Support within the Department of Health should also be streamlined to provide timely interventions for people experiencing homelessness with additional issues. Referral pathways also need to be improved to enable swift access, with person-centred and trauma-informed care at the heart of service delivery.”

The Lord Mayor of Belfast City Council, Councillor Christina Black said: “We are pleased to host the launch of this joint Simon Community NI and Depaul report as we are committed to engaging with our partner organisations to tackle homelessness across the city. The report critically identifies the extent of links between homelessness and mental health and makes essential recommendations for next steps and long-term assistance, which are vital in addressing homelessness.”

The report can be accessed at: