The housing and homeless crisis in Ireland
A housing and homeless crisis has developed since 2014 in Ireland, resulting in a tripling of homeless individuals in emergency accommodation from 3,226 in July 2014 to 9,753 in December 2018.
The causes of the crisis have not been addressed on the scale required to end the plight of homelessness. Significant rent increases, increases in demand for private rental housing and the lack of social and affordable homes has led to families and individuals accessing homeless accommodation.
Emergency Accommodation- Hotels & B&B’s
The lack of privacy while visiting people in emergency accommodation is frustrating for members who want to assist people at a time when they are at their most vulnerable. Many members have stated they have had to meet families outdoors in the cold weather, outside a B&B or hotel, while parents were concerned about leaving their children inside unattended.
The absence of cooking facilities and the barriers to ensuring adequate nutrition is also highlighted by SVP members. As has been widely reported, many hotels & B&Bs have no cooking facilities for families thus depriving parents of carrying out a key duty of parenthood- cooking for their children. It also put additional financial strain on families as they are forced to eat-out or buy ready-made convenience food which is expensive.
SVP members see the experience of homelessness as one of survival both physically and mentally. Parents appreciate the time members spend with them listening to their concerns and frustrations’. (SVP Member).
There are a small cohort of families SVP support that do not have the supports they need while experiencing homelessness. Families that have to ‘self-accommodate’ have to find their own emergency accommodation and are not able to access vital supports such as a Focus Ireland case-worker who will assist them with the daily challenges of homelessness and importantly can support families to get out of emergency accommodation. The practice of ‘self-accommodation’ should be ended, it puts additional stress on people who are already facing significant challenges due to becoming homeless.
SVP members have on many occasions cited the strength and resilience shown by parents to maintain a semblance of normality for their children. The fact that many hotels & B&Bs have no facilities for play or study for children causes undue stress for parents. SVP members provide cinema passes, zoo passes, etc. directly to families to enable them to spend some time together away from the hotel room.
‘Currently there are 68 families in emergency accommodation in the Bonnington Hotel in Drumcondara (formerly the Regency) and 33 families in emergency accommodation in the Clayton at Dublin airport. This Conference made on average 28 visits over both hotels (every second week) in 2018’. (SVP Member)
Emergency Accommodation - Family Hubs
In 2017, the government announced a new type of ‘improved’ emergency accommodation: family hubs. They are provided in refurbished buildings including former religious institutions, warehouses, retail units, and former hotels & B&Bs.
There is concerns that the structures and regulations considered necessary for the operation of these centres, and for the assurance of child protection, will impact on normal interactions within and between families, and impinge on family privacy and autonomy and on the exercise of parental roles.
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has recommended that the legislation governing the provision of emergency accommodation (Section 10, Housing Act, 1988) be amended to place a limit on the length of time a family will spend in emergency accommodation of any kind, suggesting that this should be no more than three months.
When a family exits homelessness it also must be into safe, secure and affordable accommodation so that they are not faced with the threat of experiencing homelessness in the future.
‘Recently the Conference provided funding to a city centre school to purchase and maintain a stock of ties, shirts etc which can be provided to children where families have lost necessary items of clothing while on the move during their homelessness experience’. (SVP Member).
One of the fundamental causes of homelessness is the widening housing affordability gap while Government have cut back on their responsibility to build homes. To address this, Government must significantly increase the direct building of social housing. Similarly, rent regulation that protects tenants needs to be implemented and enforced so that tenants can stay in their homes. In the meantime, SVP members will continue to support families and individuals experiencing the trauma that is homelessness. We owe them a depth of gratitude.
Thank you to all SVP members who contributed to this article.