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Dublin: 9 °C Thursday 20 June, 2019
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Many Irish families are closer to being homeless than ever

“It’s terrifying knowing I will be homeless in three months”

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THE SPECTRE OF homelessness has changed in Ireland in the last half-decade.

No longer is the prospect of ending up on the streets the preserve of just a few small sections of society.

A deep recession and cuts to rent supplements mean that many people who never considered themselves in danger now face homelessness.

For Dave*, that has become an all too haunting prospect. He has had his rent supplement cut and has been informed that the rent on his family home in a Dublin suburb is due to be increased. He knows that when that happens at the end of November, he, his wife and his son will be homeless.

“It’s terrifying.

“I lost my job in construction two years ago and I’ve been looking since, but I can’t seem to find anything steady.

“I honestly don’t know what we’ll do. My mam is in a nursing home, so there’s no “family home” there and my wife’s sister and her boyfriend live with her parents. It’s a mess.”

Dave says that he has been attempting to navigate the homelessness system, but that is already proving difficult.

“The charities are great, they’re helpful, but there’s so much information, it’s hard to get your head around it.”

Mary

For Mary, whose apartment block in Galway went into receivership, the situation is as frustrating. She says that landlords are refusing her because she has children.

She has been in emergency accommodation for three months.

“They are saying it’s because of a dangerous balconies but I explained that I’m always with my children so it’s not a problem.

“I’ve had bookings every week but they don’t want to even talk to you.

“I’m very sad and I’m losing my hope.

“The emergency accommodation is fine but it’s not home – I have to keep everything in my boxes.

“It so hard to put the children to bed – I’m so busy looking for houses in the evenings.”

Her child is starting in first class this year.

“The government is good to people looking for accommodation, I think they care.

“I also think the council needs to do some more inspections – there’s accommodation that has dampness and is completely unsuitable.

“I would love a working shower – it’s hard washing the children with cups but I am very grateful for a roof over my head.”

Not alone

These problems, an inability to access private rental accommodation, speak of something new on Ireland’s homelessness landscape – an emerging trend that is pushing more and more families towards emergency accommodation.

This map by the All Island Research Observatory (Airo) in connection with the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive shows just how many rental units are in each area of the capital.

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It shows that in many of the suburbs that feature higher unemployment and more low-income families, there is a dearth of available in units.

In the Blanchardstown/Dublin 15 area, which has a population of around 100,000, there is around 20,000 private units.  In parts of Dublin city, the problem is even more acute.

That lack of supply, coupled with cuts to rent supplements, means that many families are a rent increase, or an enforced sale of their home, away from an extremely difficult situation.

Anecdotal evidence from people who work families at risk suggests that problems accessing rental accommodation is the biggest problem in the area these days.

Many families are living in fear of having to navigate the system, but many don’t know just how close they are. More still don’t understand how to avoid it.

A spokeswoman from the Dublin Region Homeless Executive says that they have seen a very steady increase in the number of families contacting services within the last year.

She says that families are struggling to find private rental accommodation that is affordable, available and willing to accept rent supplement.

She adds that homeless services are working to really support families who are renting to understand their rights as tenants and stresses to families that they do not have to become homeless before accessing homeless services.

Threshold provide a Tenancy Protection Service on behalf of the four Dublin local authorities, we would urge families who are renting and worried about losing their home to contact the freephone number 1800 454 454 as soon as they feel their tenancy is at risk The Tenancy Protection Service works with tenancy sustainment services from the Dublin Simon Community and Focus Ireland in order to maximise the efforts in response to tenancy breakdown amongst households in private rented accommodation.

Since 16 June to 5 September, the Tenancy Protection Service received 1,700 phone calls.

Of that, 740 families were at risk. We were able to protect 191 family tenancies and the interventions for the remaining 549 are ongoing.

On 8 September, there were 156 families in hotels. The local authorities in conjunction with Focus Ireland are providing Homeless Action Teams to work with the families, providing support in terms of sourcing alternative accommodation in the private rented sector.

“In the long-term, more social housing is needed, but in the immediate term, prevention is key and that we can work to sustain families in their current tenancies.

“We have demonstrated that when there is a clear case of income inadequacy, and an additional emergency needs payment is provided to a family, it is possible for them to stay in their private rented accommodation as opposed to accessing homeless services.”

The issue disproportionately affects low-income families, who are unable to sustain increases in the cost of their rent, but comes down to a simple fact.

“The speed at which people are entering homeless services and the pace at which they’re leaving, are not matching up.”

Read the rest of our Homeless Ireland 2014 series

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