Northern Ireland

Homelessness: Lord Mayor calls emergency meeting

Arder Carson
Image caption Lord Mayor Arder Carson said the aim of this afternoon's meeting was to see what more can be done to help the homeless.

The Lord Mayor of Belfast has called an emergency meeting of agencies which deal with homelessness following the death of a man in the city centre on Wednesday evening.

Four homeless people have died in Belfast this year.

Lord Mayor Arder Carson said the aim of the meeting was to see what more could be done to help the homeless.

The issue was also discussed by the executive at a meeting in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.

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Media captionFour homeless people have died in Belfast this year, as BBC Newsline's Mark Simpson reports

Speaking to BBC reporter Mark Simpson, the Lord Mayor said: "The people with the skills and the experience, in terms of organisations that exist in the city, are the ones who are best placed to come up with a solution.

"That's why I'm asking to meet with them today to see if we can refocus and double our efforts to ensure that this doesn't happen in our city again."

"Terrible tragedy"

During the executive meeting, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, described the death of a fourth homeless person in Belfast as a "terrible tragedy".

Image copyright Alan Lewis-Photopress Belfast
Image caption The man died in front of a shop on High Street on Wednesday night

The Social Development Minister, Lord Morrow, was also asked to look at what more can be done to help combat the plight of homelessness.

More than 10,000 defined as homeless

According to statistics obtained from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, just under 20,000 people presented themselves as homeless in the period 2014/15.

Of this total, 11,016 were defined as homeless in accordance with current legislation.

A spokesperson for the Housing Executive said: "Homelessness does not just describe people sleeping on the streets.

"It has been our experience that the number of 'rough sleepers' on average on the street of Belfast on any given night is in single figures.

"Rough sleeping represents only a small amount of street activity which also includes street drinking and begging."

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