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New research proves poor mental health and homelessness are inextricably linked

North Antrim UUP MLA Robin Swann (centre) pictured with the report co-authors Deirdre Canavan (Depaul) and Karen McAlister (Simon Community NI)

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 that 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 commented:

“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.”

Responding to the report North Antrim UUP MLA Robin Swann stated:

“Today’s publication between the Simon Community and Depaul really proves something that we knew across all the departments. Prior to leaving office myself, Naomi Long as Minister of Justice and Deirdre Hargey as Community Minister were looking at how we set up a cross-departmental working group on these issues.

"I hope we will take a look at the recommendations from this report because those departments that are currently being led by civil servants can be informed by these two organisations and will provide the proof and the evidence to direct them in the work that they are already doing”.

The report can be accessed at:


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