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'My dad was on heroin... I was put into care when I was 8': The experience of young homeless families

A new report looks into the experiences of new families with young parents.

UNABLE TO LIVE in overcrowded homes and locked out of the housing market, some young parents and families find themselves homeless in their first experience of independent living. 

A new report from homeless charity Focus Ireland report looks into the experiences of new families with young parents under the age the of 25 whose first time living independently was in homeless emergency accommodation.

According to Focus, this group makes up about 10% of the total number of homeless families in Ireland. Latest reports show that there were 1,709 families living in homeless emergency accommodation in the state in October. 

According to the report – titled Young Families in the Homeless Crisis: Challenges and Solutions – these families find it particularly hard to get out of emergency accommodation and into their own homes. 

In total, 18 families in Dublin and Cork gave detailed interviews to researchers about their experiences of homelessness. 

In many cases, the families became homeless due to relationship breakdowns or overcrowding in family homes. Once they are forced to leave, they find themselves locked out of the housing market because of their young age and struggle to find anywhere to live.

“These young parents, for whom homelessness is the very first experience of living independently of their own parents, have a good claim to be recognised as among the most vulnerable of the vulnerable,” said advocacy director at the charity Mike Allen. 

They have no experience of living as independent adults let alone of being parents.

Experience

She’d obviously be stressed out and then I’d be stressed out as well and then I just had so much going on, like, so I just couldn’t live there and then she just said get out, like, you know what I mean, like, we had a big huge fight then and I had to leave. – Niamh, 24
My dad’s was on heroin. And, emm, I was put into care when I was eight, with my little sister and we were living there for about ten years but she was, like, vicious, so I left … She was a worse alcoholic than my mother was… like she drank every night of the week. – Danielle, 24

Accounts likes Niamh’s and Danielle’s (above) are indicative of the negative domestic situations young mothers find themselves in. From leaving the family home, things turn worse when the families aren’t able to find somewhere else to live.

Like, when you’re going into viewings, like, there’s, like, six other people there and, like, you know they’re all walking in, you know, with their briefcases and everything and there’s me with him [child]. Is there even a point of me being here? – Niamh

Niamh and other participants in the study felt that as young parents dependent on the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) they were at a strong disadvantage as they couldn’t compete with older, employed professionals.

Focus Ireland called for more support for these families to help them to get out of homelessness. Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, director of advocacy Mike Allen said that the failure of families to secure anywhere to live in the private rental sector ruins their self-esteem.

“And of course they’re at the end of the queue for social housing… because if you’re only 22 you can’t have been on the queue for very long,” he said. 

We need to do more to help this particular group.

Among other measures, Focus Ireland called for a comprehensive strategy to respond to the unique needs of families that are homeless.

Separately, Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin released a policy document on homelessness today, which stated that the number of homeless people in Ireland is much higher than reported. 

Ó Broin said that when you took into account the numbers of homeless children and families in domestic violence refuges; the numbers living in Direct Provision who have been given leave to remain but have nowhere to go; and others in homeless accommodation not funded by the state, the figure is far higher than reported. 

“All in all there are approx. 12,805 people accessing emergency accommodation in this State. Far more than the 9,724 currently counted by the government,” Ó Broin said. 

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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