Ciara and her family - A hidden homeless story

Posted by Jennifer Thompson  on 30 May 2018 | 0 comments

Hidden homelessness is often characterised by overcrowded and unsuitable accommodation. With no secure place to call home people are often doubling or tripling up with family or friends. Despite experiencing many of the same challenges as those living in emergency accommodation, and not having a home, they are not counted as officially homeless, and won’t qualify for many support services.
 
Living with loved ones can initially be seen as a novelty, an adventure, and family and friends are often willing to provide support during this time. It isn’t long however before the stress and strain of living in overcrowded accommodation, and the uncertainty of when, or if, alternative accommodation may become available, begins to take their toll on both the family and the host.
 
Ciara’s is one such case, who recently approached SVP for help and is working hard to manage the reality of her situation.

Ciara’s marriage broke down in 2014 and by 2016 the family home was sold, leaving Ciara and her four children (aged 5 – 12) without a place to live. Ciara did not have enough money to buy again, or to even consider long term renting. Between all the children, they had a significant amount of belongings - toys, clothes etc. which all needed to be stored as the house was cleared. Ciara rang SVP for the first time to request help with the cost of storage. SVP agreed, recognising that Ciara and her children were struggling.  
 
Ciara had only her wages and the children’s allowance for her family to live on. The children’s father failed to make any payments towards their maintenance. Ciara had to return to living with her parents. The chance of a roof over their heads was welcome, but moving back home meant that Ciara was now many miles from where she worked and where the children went to school. This meant more petrol for the extra travelling. Ciara’s parents tried to help Ciara with bills and expenses as much as hey could. But Ciara’s younger sister and her new baby were also living in the house, so space and resources were at a premium. 
 
Ciara talked to SVP members about her situation wondering how long she could remain living back with her parents. She considered herself homeless and often thought about declaring herself officially homeless, thinking she might be better in emergency accommodation. She felt guilty loading the pressure on her parents and sister, though she felt that she would feel worse if the children could not cope in emergency accommodation. Furthermore, she felt that she did not want to be a burden to the council. 
 
SVP is assisting Ciara’s parents with the cost of their utility bills, and is also providing Ciara with assistance through vouchers for clothes for the children as well as zoo passes and cinema vouchers to give them a break away from the crowded conditions. While these supports will help the family cope with the issues arising from their homelessness, their housing situation remains uncertain and precarious. 

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Leading NGOs in Ireland have called for urgent action to address hidden homelessness. Barnardos, Focus Ireland, Simon Communities in Ireland and Society of St Vincent de Paul are deeply concerned about the thousands of individuals, families and children who are experiencing hidden homelessness.

The four NGOs are raising awareness of the lived experience of these individuals and families through sharing the real and personal stories of what it is like experiencing hidden homelessness. The group also identified a number of policy recommendations which would help prevent hidden homelessness, support those already living in hidden homelessness and reduce the number of people who have no choice but to turn to emergency accommodation.

Click here to read more.
 

Blog post written by Jennifer Thompson

Social Policy Development Officer

More by Jennifer Thompson

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