A unique new online training tool has been developed to help educate landlords in how to prevent their tenants from sliding into homelessness.

The online tool, and associated website, will provide landlords in both the private and public sectors with the skills to identify when renters may be facing issues which could impact upon their ability to sustain their tenancies, such as poor mental health, financial issues or family breakdown.

It will also assist tenants with complex needs, who are not in supported accommodation and who have been identified as having specific vulnerabilities by the Housing Executive, as well as those who can use it to avoid crisis.

The tool has been developed by the Homelessness Prevention Forum - a collaboration of 19 services involved in the prevention of homelessness and housing support - thanks to funding from the Housing Executive.

Co-Chairs of the Homelessness Prevention Forum Paul Fleming, from NIACRO, and Declan Morris, from Extern, said increased interventions and support will stop many issues from escalating to a crisis stage where people lose their homes.

Paul Fleming said: “For many people, becoming homeless is not the beginning of their problems. It comes at the end of a long line of crises, a long line of interactions with public and voluntary sector services, a long line of missed opportunities. 

“We are working to change that. Anyone who encounters vulnerable households, at risk of homelessness, must understand homelessness and how their interventions can assist in its prevention.

“By helping to prevent more people from sliding into homelessness, this website and training tool can help relieve pressure on our acute homeless and housing services. It ensures that landlords have the benefit of being able to sustain their income without having to resort to drastic measures, such as evicting tenants who might otherwise have been able to be helped with their situation.” 

Declan Morris, said: “The Coronavirus pandemic and its impact on people’s mental health, as well as the current cost of living crisis, which is already having a significant impact on personal finances, are prime examples of how circumstances can spiral out of control for many people.

“This new website will equip landlords in the private or public sector with a better understanding and awareness of those ‘red flags’ which can indicate when their tenants may be facing difficulties. This is of particular benefit for landlords who may have a wide range of tenants and who therefore may not find it as easy to spot at first hand those early warning signs which can lead to homelessness.

“These can include missed rent payments, hoarding issues, not returning calls, poor upkeep of the property, being new to the area or country, loss of employment and many more.”

Declan Morris and Paul Fleming hold a laptop showing the new website

Declan Morris, Extern (left), and Paul Fleming, NIACRO

The training tool is easily accessible and free, and will equip the general public, private and social landlords, as well as frontline workers, to better understand the signs and help prevent homelessness. It will also enable a direct connection to services that can help.

Deborah Reid, Head of Homeless Projects at the Housing Executive, said: “We are proud to provide the funding for this positive initiative.

“A key focus of our homelessness strategy, Ending Homelessness Together, is preventing people from experiencing homelessness. Tools like this are useful to raise awareness of homelessness and of preventive measures available.

Visit www.homelessnesspreventionforum.com for further details.

“Help and advice is always there and we very much welcome the development of this new portal in providing an early warning system which will allow positive interventions to be made.”