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Call for a specific family homelessness strategy

  • 13/06/2019
  • Author:bridgetmccall

Focus Ireland research shows the number of families homeless has shot up by nearly 300% since 2015

Euros with Monopoly houses

Families living in the private rented sector are continuing to bear the worst of the deepening housing and homeless crisis, according to new research launched by Focus Ireland on Wednesday 13 June. The charity has called for the Government to develop a specific family homelessness strategy.

The researchers interviewed 237 families that are homeless in Dublin, with 68% (161) of them reporting that their last stable home was in the private rented sector.

Why families become homeless

Over half of these families (86 out of 161 or 53%) became homeless because their landlord had decided to stop renting out the property – either selling the property, moving their family or themselves into the property or the property being repossessed by the bank.

The report shows that the majority of families that became homeless had stable housing histories and 9-out-of-ten respondents had lived in their last stable home for over a year, with “33% having lived in their last stable home for over 6 years”.

Focus Ireland Director of Advocacy, Mike Allen, said: “In order to end any crisis it is vital to fully understand the situation.  We need to have solid data which clearly outlines where families were living before they lost their home, why they became homeless and what could have done to prevent them from losing their home in the first place. This clear information informs our work with the State to refine our family services and to also develop policy recommendations that – if acted upon by Government – would help to greatly reduce the number of families becoming homeless.”

He added: “The research is reinforcing the evidence from our previous work, which shows that homelessness is happening to a large number of families for purely economic reasons – they have held stable tenancies and the events that are leading to their homelessness are entirely beyond their control – they relate to the circumstances and choices made by their landlords. While the recently enacted Residential Tenancies Act (2019) includes many welcome measures, including increased sanctions for the tiny minority of landlords who break the rules, it will do nothing to address the most significant factors which are driving homeless upwards.”

Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) properties

The report also found that families are making extensive efforts to find a new home with over three-quarters of attempting to access properties through the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).  Almost two-thirds (61%) had applied for over 20 HAP properties each but nearly half (48%) felt landlords were reluctant to rent their properties to HAP tenants.

 Mike Allen said: “There’s now a record number of 10,378 people homeless in Ireland and nearly 4,000 are children. The number of families who are homeless has shot up by a staggering 298% in the last four years from 429 in Feb 2015 to 1,707 in Feb 2019.  This is wrong and we must all work together to end this crisis.  Focus Ireland publishes this research as a contribution to the national understanding of the crisis, so that we can arrive at more effective solutions.  It also presents accurate information which we hope will counteract any misconceptions about why families are homeless and the very considerable efforts they are making to find themselves new homes.”

Lone mothers, migrants and members of the Travelling community

The research also confirmed that lone mothers, migrants (parents originally from a country outside of Ireland), and members of the Travelling community face a disproportionate risk to family homelessness. While a majority of families are actively attempting to exit homelessness, the difficulties in sourcing affordable and stable private rented accommodation can be profound.

Support services

Mr Allen added: “One of the most worrying findings of the research is that – despite extensive investment in advertising the support services available – one third of the families did not seek any advice or support before becoming homeless. We clearly need to rethink the way we communicate the availability of the help that is available and target the families that are most at risk."

Source: Focus Ireland press release: Focus Ireland report finds that nearly 70% of families becoming homeless in Dublin had their last home in the rental sector

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