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Dublin: 13 °C Friday 22 February, 2019
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Where would you stay if you became homeless tomorrow?

Emergency accommodation beds across the nation’s capital are at 99% capacity. If you became homeless tomorrow, what could you expect to face?

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HOMELESS SERVICES ARE in place to provide a safety net for those who find themselves without accommodation. 

Traditional ideas about the users of these services no longer apply. Inflated rents and a shortage of private accommodation has meant that more families are now availing of these services than ever before.

Across Dublin there are currently 1,396 emergency beds available in the system. Occupation for these sits at 99%, not including hotel accommodation.

What happens when you become homeless? 

When a person becomes homeless their first port of call is either the local council or a homeless charity. In the capital, Dublin Regional Homeless Executive coordinates services across the four council areas to provide a service that best meets each individual’s needs.

On presenting to the council there are four types of accommodation that a person could be provided with: 

  • Supported Temporary Accommodation – this type of accommodation would be most offered to those with addiction and mental health problems. There are services on site to help a person develop to a point where they are able to live independently. 
  • Temporary Emergency Accommodation – this type of accommodation is provided for those with “low support needs”.
  • Private Emergency Accommodation – including apartments, private houses and b and b’s sourced by the council, this type of accommodation could be offered to a family presenting with an urgent need.
  • Hotels – which have only come into use since 2013 to meet an increase in demand. 

Families

For Dublin City Council a big challenge is placing people into appropriate accommodation. Due to child safety, there is an priority placed on the housing of families.

There is difficulty in finding appropriate accommodation for families due to demand. Across Dublin there are currently 156 families, including 341 children, living in hotels.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, a spokesperson for the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive, said:

The difference in terms of what you’re seeing at the moment around families is that it is more from a purely economic situation… what we are seeing with the families that are presenting to us are more external. It is the breakdown of the private rental sector.

For families presenting to the Homeless Executive the council will draw on a wide range of resources to find suitable accommodation. On this the spokesperson said:

What we are trying to avoid is a situation where families are contacting us too late, which makes it much more difficult for us to intervene and to try and sustain their family tenancy…

“The Tenancy Protection Service is provided by Threshold, on behalf of the four Dublin local authorities. It works with other key services  such as Focus Ireland and Dublin Simon Community Tenancy Sustainment Services in order to maximise the efforts in response to tenancy breakdown amongst households in private rented accommodation.”

On a case by case basis emergency needs payments can be provided by the council on top of rent supplement. This is something that could apply in a situation where an income inadequacy occurred after a rent increase.

This is provided for through the Tenancy Protection Service. Since June the service has received around 1,700 calls and has had a high success rate for preventing families from having to avail of emergency accommodation.

Individuals 

For single people who find themselves homeless the situation can be that accommodation simply is not available and that person may just be provided with a sleeping bag for the night.

Between April and June of this year an average of 38 individuals a night were provided with sleeping bags due to over-capacity on services.

For people going into Supported Temporary Accommodation things can be difficult. For those trying to overcome addiction problems, being in contact with others who are still using drugs or drinking, can be a challenge.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, three men staying in the COPE Fairgreen Hostel in Galway described how they felt about the accommodation available to them. For them there was a sense of being trapped in the service:

I’d love to do my own shopping and cooking and get back to civilisation You could go away for a week to visit someone. I feel trapped.

For the men there was a social stigma attached to staying in a hostel:

If you give here as an address to a landlord they’ll tell you the house is gone – they think we are all drunks but we are down on our luck. We might turn to drink to deal with it.There’s no way out because you’re here.

Another issue that arose was the institutionalisation that can occur:

You can get caught up in a clique in hostels – if you don’t have a strong personality you can fall back into it.

“There’s always somebody with money on one day to buy drink or whatever you need and it keeps going -someone else the next day and someone else until you get cash and then it’s your day. If you get in that group- it’s very hard to get out.”

A little bit of support goes a long way and if someone believes in you it gives you so much of a lift.

Standard of accommodation

One of the problems that has been identified by those staying in emergency accommodation and trying to turn their lives around has been the nature of sharing accommodation.

Speaking at a conference on homelessness earlier this month, Fr Peter McVerry from the Peter McVerry Trust described how people could have their belongings stolen during the night and drugs being used in shared dormitories.

As a way of dealing with this the charity has moved towards a system where single dormitories are provided for individuals. These rooms ensure that those using the service are able to lock the door behind them and ensure their own safety.

Kitchen - STA A kitchen in the single dormitory accommodation Source: Peter McVerry Trust

Speaking about this type of accommodation, spokesperson for the Peter McVerry Trust Francis Doherty, said:

In terms of the standards, they have improved significantly in the sector. Our most recent emergency accommodation that we’ve opened is people getting their own room and they have en-suite facilities.They have their own privacy and security and their not at risk of having their items stolen and stuff like that.

“People might have preconceptions about what emergency hostel means and what it looks like but this is very high standard accommodation. It is what any member of the public might pay to access in a youth hostel.”

IMAG0341 A bedroom in the single dormitory accommodation Source: Peter McVerry Trust

Housing solution

A focus of both the Peter McVerry Trust and the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive has been a scheme called ‘Housing First’. With this the focus is placed on housing individuals before they have any need to enter into emergency accommodations services.

On the ‘Housing First’ initiative Doherty said:

If we have enough accommodation of apartments or houses, if someone presents as homeless it means they never go into emergency accommodation at all… they would be put into their own apartments and have the supports built around them.

The ‘Housing First’ model has been used in countries around Europe and has been shown to have successful results. It is also something that is supported by the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive and it has been said to have an impact on taking entrenched rough sleepers off the streets.

Catch up with the rest of our Homeless Ireland series here

Pic: Andrew Bennett via Flickr/Creative Commons

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