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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Homelessness Awareness Week 2021

Homelessness Awareness Week is a week of social, educational, and awareness raising events that help highlight the issue of homelessness and to mark the continued efforts of organisations, staff, and service users working in the sector. 

This Homelessness Awareness Week we look at how Housing Rights’ multitude of services can help people in Northern Ireland who are facing homelessness or housing issues.

*Client’s names have been changed* 


Housing Rights helps client facing eviction due to mortgage arrears keep his home, Paul's story

Paul had fallen into arrears on his mortgage due to difficulties in his personal circumstances and was at risk of losing his home.  

He was already paying off an amount each month to try and clear the arrears.  But due to Covid and the resulting lockdowns, Paul had to stop work and was not eligible for any government financial support.  He therefore struggled to meet the monthly repayments in full for a few months.  

When he was able to work again Paul began to make increased repayments in an attempt to clear the additional arrears.   

Despite this the lender was proceeding with the eviction and failed to inform Housing Rights that the case was being taken back to court, against the Judge's guidance during Covid. Paul contacted Housing Rights again for help, and we challenged the lenders behaviour. As a result the eviction was subsequently cancelled, and Paul was delighted to be able to remain in his home.   


Renting Rights service helps rehouse young woman in permanent social accommodation, Anna’s story

Anna was referred to Housing Rights by Northern Ireland Housing Executive as she was living in a private rented accommodation which had serious repair issues.  She also had a large shortfall between her rent liability and benefit entitlement. Anna was 19 and was expecting her first child.

Our Renting Rights advisers liaised with NIHE and Anna’s landlord to get a Discretionary Housing Payment Application completed and she was awarded £25 weekly, reducing the shortfall in her rent.

We also liaised with Environmental Health regarding the repair issues, which lead to a notice of disrepair being served onto the landlord. As Anna was heavily pregnant at the time, and the repairs were not resolved before she was due to have the baby, Anna felt that she had no option but to move out of the property to stay with family - she did not want to have her baby stay in a property that may impact upon their health.

We then assisted Anna in maximising her points with the housing selection scheme and this led to her being rehoused in permanent social accommodation.

The selection scheme is the set of rules that explains how points are awarded and how points are offered out.  Further information on the scheme can be found here.  If you or a client are unsure how many points you are entitled to and would like to speak with an adviser for a points check-up, contact our helpline on 028 902 45640 or live chat at Housing Advice NI |

Renting Rights is a specialist support service operated by Housing Rights to help young people aged between 18-25 (or thereabouts) who are: in or trying to access rented accommodation, living in a shared house, homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.  Our specialist young people’s advisers can provide advice and information, casework and advocacy, and mediation.

Housing mediation helps sustain private tenancy, Robert’s story

Robert had lived in his privately rented property for 4 years and was keen to stay.  Due to a change in his working hours which meant his housing benefits were affected, Robert fell into arrears of more than £2000 and was given a notice to leave the property.

A referral was made to Housing Rights mediation service as Robert had been avoiding the issue and was not communicating well with the letting agent.

The mediator helped the parties reach an agreement whereby Robert would pay and extra sum each week towards arrears and would communicate with the letting agent regularly, and the landlord would lift the notice to quit once arrears were paid off.  Robert’s tenancy was sustained as a result of the mediation, and he was able to stay in his home.

Housing Rights Mediation Service aims to help resolve disputes that have occurred in private tenancies.  Further information on the service can be accessed here.

Beyond The Gate helps vulnerable client resettle into the community 

Housing Rights ‘Beyond The Gate’ project aims to break the cycle of chronic homelessness and re-offending which exists for some of the most vulnerable prisoners upon their release from the prison system in Northern Ireland.  The service identifies prisoners with the most complex needs and works to enhance their chances of sustaining their home. Our advisers work with the client and other agencies to secure accommodation and ensure appropriate support services are in place. 

 A Housing Rights Beyond the Gate adviser discusses a recent case of a vulnerable client.  

Maddie is a young person with a history of addiction, sofa-surfing, disengaging from support services, and repeat offending.  Prior to her committal she was being assessed as homeless and had been staying in temporary accommodation. During this time, she was also engaging with the substitute prescribing team to help manage her addiction.   

Upon her immediate release Maddie had gone to stay with family and was again sofa-surfing for a short time.  When I first met with Maddie, I immediately set about trying to find a home for her and secure any necessary benefits available to help.  We were able to help her obtain Universal Credit along with a contingency fund and advance payment to help financially during the five-week period that clients usually have to wait for benefits to come through.  We also assisted Maddie with her PIP application.   

Maddie had a difficult few week's post-release where she struggled with her mental health and addiction problems, and as a result missed some appointments with the addictions services.  However, we were able to liaise with the Prisons Board in keeping her linked in with these services and also helped her register with a GP for support.   

We then set about trying to secure a lasting home for Maddie.  We worked with her to maximise her housing points and when the offer of a home came up from a local Housing Association, we supported her to register her interest and went to view the property with her.  Maddie had some items of furniture in storage and so we arranged delivery of these to her new home as well as securing a starter pack and helping her apply for finance for some basic household items.  As she was in receipt of Universal Credit this meant that we could link her housing costs to her benefits claim and also submit a rates application, both of which could then be passed directly to the Housing Association.   

Her problems led her to disengage from the claim for a short time which meant that she was at risk of losing her benefits, but we were able to encourage her to contact her Universal Credit Work Coach in order to prevent a possible sanction of her benefits.   

Maddie is now in her own tenancy and is supported by a floating support service. Her case with Beyond the Gate is successfully closed.   

Maddie’s case demonstrates how  Beyond The Gate can work successfully with different agencies and projects to help a vulnerable person resettle into the community.   

Tagged In

Repossession, Social Tenancies, Private Tenancies, Homelessness

This article was written on 1 December 2021. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.