Homeless Deaths an Indictment of Austerity Policies
By Emer Lavery, Socialist Youth
Catherine Kenny – who passed away just weeks after her partner Jimmy Coulter in the same doorway – was the fifth homeless person to die on the streets of Belfast since the beginning of February. It is almost inconceivable that this type of thing can actually be happening so close to home. The reality, however, is that they do happen and are happening – and there isn’t enough being done to prevent it.
On average, 20 people are sleeping rough in Belfast’s city centre every night. While there is no single cause or solution to homelessness, it is very evident that heavier pressure needs to be laid on to the politicians sitting comfortably in Stormont. Housing inequality in Belfast is becoming worse, with those hoping for social housing being subjected to seemingly endless waiting lists and private rental prices increasing. More investment needs to be given to ensure easier access to social housing, while enforcing strict rent controls on private housing to ensure that those who have a home don’t have to continuously struggle to keep it.
In Belfast we are lucky enough to have some amazing outreach programmes to help our homeless, but cuts are being made to essential mental health and addiction services such as FASA, which for some people could make the difference between life or death. Without support, addiction and homelessness can become a vicious circle – somebody may become homeless as a result of an addiction and then addiction may worsen as a result of homelessness, or vice versa. If money was invested in to addiction services like FASA as opposed to money being taken from them, then those vulnerable people would be able to get the help they need and deserve. It’s 2016. People should not have to sleep on our streets, and people definitely should not be dying on our streets.