6th December, 2016

As Christmas approaches, at least ten individuals or families who are currently homeless in Belfast, can look forward to being in a home of their own in the New Year, as a result of a transformational new housing project being launched today by Extern, the leading social justice charity.

Known as Extern Homes, the initiative is a first for Northern Ireland. Extern has purchased houses to create homes for people who are homeless, or who are at risk of homelessness, giving them a chance to rebuild their lives. The homes come with wraparound support services, including access to training and employment opportunities.

The project is being supported by Charity Bank, the ethical bank that exists to lend to charities and social enterprises, and is being launched today by the Right Honourable, the Lord Mayor, Alderman Brian Kingston, at City Hall, during Homelessness Awareness Week.

Homelessness to homes
Extern is initially purchasing ten houses in North and West Belfast, creating homes for some of the most vulnerable people in the city. Other than dedicated housing associations, no other charity in Northern Ireland has previously purchased houses in order to move people from homelessness to homes.

Extern Homes will allow those individuals and families who are homeless, and ready to move on with their lives, to do so - breaking the cycle which finds them forced to stay in hostels, or temporary accommodation, because they aren’t a priority for social housing or are finding it impossible to access the private rented sector.

Supported tenancies
Extern Homes offers a tenancy period of up to two years. During that time tenants will be provided with wraparound support services, and access to training and employment opportunities, in order to empower them to move on with their lives. They will also be provided with welfare advice services through the North Belfast Advice Partnership, and the opportunity to gain an Independent Living Qualification through the Extern Works programme.

Key to a new future
Following on from their time in an Extern Home, Extern will be helping its tenants to secure long term accommodation, based on having developed a tenancy history in a supported environment, and having been encouraged to save for a future tenancy deposit.

Commending Extern ahead of the launch of the new project, Belfast Lord Mayor, Alderman Brian Kingston, said: “This is a very heartening development which will give new hope and stability to those facing homelessness in our city. Extern and its partner Charity Bank have taken a bold and innovative step in purchasing these ten homes in the first phase of the project and giving these people a fresh start. I wish these individuals every happiness in their new homes, and I very much look forward to seeing this scheme grow in success and reach.”

Charlie Mack, CEO of Extern, added: “Extern believes everyone can make a positive contribution to society, and has worked hard, over two years, to bring this revolutionary approach to Northern Ireland. This is a significant investment for Extern, and this initiative is enabling people to rebuild their lives and to move people from homelessness to homes.

“Each night in Belfast, Extern is supporting over 380 families and individuals who are at risk of homelessness, or who are homeless, with no front door to call their own. Through Extern Homes, we are enabling people to not only get back the key to their own front door, we are also empowering them to unlock a whole new future for themselves, and their families, as a result of the wraparound support and training opportunities which Extern is providing as part of these life-changing tenancies.”

Speaking about why Charity Bank chose to get involved in supporting the scheme, Patrick Minne, Northern Ireland Manager, said: “Charity Bank was set up to support projects like this, and to back charities and social enterprises working hard to tackle social problems within communities. Our loan will help Extern to change the lives of people and families who are currently homeless.”

Declan Morris, Project Manager with Extern Homes, added:

“Extern Homes will be life-changing for our tenants. I would like to thank everyone who has, and will be involved, in delivering this crucial project, including North Belfast Advice Partnership who will be providing our tenants with welfare information, and the fantastic staff volunteers at Tesco’s Yorkgate Store, who through Tesco’s Community Champions scheme are helping to redecorate each of our houses.”

Anyone wishing to support Extern Homes and help move more people from homelessness to homes can do so by texting DOOR17 £3 to 70070 or by visiting www.extern.org and donating online.