On Monday 16th September 2019 a group of hostel residents and local councillors launched Housing Rights Watch – an app that will allow them to directly apply to the Housing Executive Chief Executive for official homeless status utilising the formal complaints process.
The app has been developed in response to a failure by Housing Executive CEO, Clark Bailie, to meet with campaigners and councillors or acknowledge any failings in Housing Executive assessment processes which leave many homeless people without official Full Duty Applicant status.
Homeless people living in homeless hostels are often denied homeless status and their right to an assessment by the Housing Executive for months and even years, despite clear legislation.
The effect is that people are not considered a priority on the housing waiting list. They can languish unnecessarily in what is meant to be temporary or emergency accommodation creating additional strain on already stretched homeless services.
The launch took place outside Belfast City Hall, and included councillors from Alliance, the DUP, the Green Party, People Before Profit, the SDLP and Sinn Féin.
Five local authorities have passed motions backed by all political parties calling for action from Mr Bailie.
Just after the launch a committee of Belfast City Council were told that Mr Bailie had declined to meet a delegation of campaigners and councillors or acknowledge that the current assessment process is inadequate.
Jasmine has direct experience of being denied homeless status and addressed Belfast City Council’s People and Communities Committee on Monday evening. She said:
“Mr Bailie is denying that we even exist and left us to rot in hostels waiting for assessments. We say, we won’t be denied any more.
“Five councils have backed us so far and asked Mr Bailie to fix this problem but he seems happy to ignore us and pretend nothing is wrong.
“We are the unrecognised homeless who don’t feature in their homeless figures.
“Our new App, Housing Rights Watch, will help people claim their rights and publish Mr Bailie’s response when they present their evidence directly to him.”
Marissa McMahon is an organiser with PPR. She said:
“Mr Bailie’s response is disappointing and misleading. It is not good enough to quote legislation and ignore how the NIHE applies that legislation in the real world.
“In the last few months we have supported nineteen homeless people who were denied official homeless status until we intervened.
“They are the tip of the iceberg. Many more homeless people have no support at all and will spend weeks, months and years in hostels waiting for recognition.
“We hope Mr Bailie will meaningfully engage with homeless people and councillors on this issue.
“In the meantime Housing Rights Watch will be rolling out in hostels providing support to homeless people to engage Mr Bailie directly to claim their rights.”