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Almost three-quarters of homeless adults experienced 'contributory events' beforehand, study shows

The research recommended stronger pathways for younger and middle aged adults into social housing.

ALMOST THREE-QUARTERS of single adults who became homeless over a three-year period had experienced one or more ‘contributory events’ beforehand, such as prior experience of being homeless, a mental health or addiction issue, or having spent time in institutional facilities.

The findings, from analysis of 3,669 single adults users of emergency accommodation (EA) in Dublin between 2016 and 2018, also found that younger people aged 18-34 were overrepresented when it came to homelessness, and that new or expanded strategies to deal with some groups may be needed, such as family support and mediation services to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place.

The research was carried out by Dr Clíodhna Bairéad and Professor Michelle Norris of the Geary Institute at University College Dublin.

It found that between January 2016 and March 2019, occupancy of EA for homeless people increased by 91% (from 5,715 to 9,753 people), with 73% of the homeless population in Dublin.

Single adults accounted for around half of the homeless population in Dublin in that period.

Just over two-thirds of the single homeless population recorded their previous accommodation types on the Pathway Accommodation and Support System (PASS), with only 1% of single EA users in Dublin previously homeowners, with 23% renting privately prior to homelessness, 22% living with parents or family and 9% living with friends.

When it came to single homeless EA users’ self-reported reasons for homelessness, of the 69% who provided that information, ‘family circumstances’ was the commonly reported reason, at 16%, followed by ‘asked to leave accommodation’ (13%) and served with a notice to quit or eviction notice (9%), and leaving an institutional facility (5%).

However, the authors of the report also noted the presence of ‘contributory events’, broken down into four categories: Homeless Events, such as experiences of homelessness prior to 2016; Health Events, such as mental health or addiction issues and time spent in rehabilitation facilities or hospital; Life Events, such as having children, having a partner also living in EA in Dublin, or moving to Ireland from abroad; and Institutional Events, including time spent in prison and foster or residential care during childhood.

According to the study, 2,624 people (or 71% of the relevant population) reported that they experienced one or more of these events prior to entering EA, with 44% having experienced one event, 24% experienced two events, and 3% experienced more than three events.

The study also noted that while the 2016 census showed 18-34 year olds made up 22% of the Irish population, people in that age bracket made up 44% of EA users in Dublin between 2016 and 2018, a third of whom had been sharing with parents or other family prior to becoming homeless.

“The reasons for homelessness reported by young EA users reflect this reliance on family accommodation as many cited family circumstances (22%), but a further 4% linked their entry into EA to ‘breakdown of parental relationship’,” it said.

“Notably young people reported these reasons for homelessness much more often than EA users in older age groups.

“Among the three age groups examined here, younger adults were most likely to report having experienced contributory events (74%) prior to entering EA.”

The authors said that while dedicated measures have already been introduced to address the specific homelessness risks faced by young people, they have focused on young people leaving foster or residential care, yet the data showed that family circumstances or breakdown of relationship with family are more common drivers of youth homelessness.

“This points to a need for family support and mediation services and also temporary accommodation provision to provide young people with an ‘integrative passage’ that can provide them with space from which they can rebuild fractured familiar relationships or make a planned transition to long-term accommodation,’ it said.

It also recommended stronger pathways for younger and middle aged adults into social housing.

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