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'The problem is that these are institutions': Family hubs for homeless compared to direct provision

The number of children who are homeless is now at nearly 3,000.

Updated at 3pm 

HOMELESSNESS CAMPAIGNERS HAVE compared family hub accommodation being used to house families who are homeless with the direct provision system.

Family hubs – essentially group homes for parents and their children – were introduced by the government this year as an alternative to accommodating families in hotels and b&bs.

However, concerns have been raised that they may ‘normalise’ the issue of family homelessness.

Speaking at the launch of his group’s #mynameis campaign to raise awareness of child homelessness, Inner City Helping Homeless CEO Anthony Flynn said families were essentially being confined to institutions for a large part of the day.

In many cases, he said, only the very highest standard of homeless accommodation was being shown to the media by official bodies.

“Okay, the hubs are fluffy – they’re great, they’re colourful … It’s not where we want children.

We don’t want 50 families using the one fridge, cooking in the one kitchen, and a timeframe around when they can come and go and what they can do.
It’s direct provision … You eat at this time, you drink at this time, you go to bed at this time.

9887 homeless_90521620 Dr Rory Hearne, NUI Maynooth; David Hall, CEO of Irish Mortgage Holders; Anthony Flynn, CEO of Inner City Helping Homeless; and campaigner Michael Caul. Source: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

Dr Rory Hearne of Maynooth University, who authored a study on housing and family hubs earlier this year, said he was concerned that – as in the case of the direct provision system – the hubs, which are being set up as a temporary measure, could end up being seen as a long-term solution by government.

“The example we looked at was clean and safe,” said Hearne, “but the problem is that these are institutions”.

“They have to be – and essentially you’re institutionalising families. And the danger is when they spend any long period of time there, that it is damaging on the family irrespective on the quality.

You have 30, 40 or 50 families who don’t know each other who are together in a space that has to monitored – because the people running it have to follow child protection guidelines.

Said Hearne:

The word from one of the families is that these were like prisons – that’s how they described them.
It’s really important that we see a family hub is not a solution to family homelessness. And my big concern would be that we are going to see hundreds if not a thousand families in family hubs in the next year.

The hubs are being rolled out in Dublin in order to end the widespread use of commercial hotels and b&bs for housing homeless families.

A total of 18 hubs are planned for the capital, with a number already operational in the city. It is planned that 634 families will be housed in these hubs while further funds have been committed to developing more.

Niamh Randall of the Simon Communities, who also spoke at this morning’s Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) launch, said that one child in emergency accommodation was one too many.

“What we know is that damage is being done and that the trauma is untold,” Randall said.

Children who spend time homeless in childhood have a much greater risk of spending time homeless as an adult.

The #mynameis campaign was launched by ICHH in order to “change the perception” of homelessness in Ireland, and make children and families the focus, Anthony Flynn, the ICHH CEO, said.

Latest figures show that there were 7,941, men, women and children homeless in June of this year. The number of homeless adults went over 5,000 for the first time ever, and the number of children who are homeless rose to nearly 3,000.

As part of the campaign, volunteers erected 400 posters in Dublin this morning. They have also been placed around Galway City, and there are plans to roll the awareness campaign out to Limerick.

The posters show a child’s face with the #mynameis hashtag. Passers-by are encouraged to share the hashtag as a way of creating a wider conversation around the issue.

ICHH has also been highlighting the case of a nine-year-old boy with cerebral palsy who has been living in emergency accommodation for two years (below) – citing it as an example of the ordeal faced by other families in similar situations.

A video posted by the group shows the boy struggling to ascend the steps of his accommodation, with the aid of a walker.

The video has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times since it was posted last week. Speaking at this morning’s event, Flynn said there had been no progress from authorities on finding a more suitable home for the family since then.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney, who served as Minister for Housing until a Cabinet reshuffle earlier this summer, said this morning that the homelessness crisis remained a huge priority for the government. The government was focusing on multiple approaches to address the problem, he told Morning Ireland.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie the Department of Housing said that the current minister, Eoghan Murphy, “acknowledges that the current level of homelessness which families and individuals are experiencing across the country is totally unacceptable”.

People can be assured that this issue remains the top priority for Government. It is important to note that resources and funding are not an issue and will not be an obstacle to the urgent delivery and heavy lifting that is now required.

The minister has written to local authorities requesting that they intensify their efforts and ramp up social housing activity and delivery on the ground, the statement said.

In addition, next week he will hold a Housing Summit in the Custom House, so that he, each of the 31 local authorities’ Chief Executives and the Department’s senior management housing team can explore and finalise solutions that will help to house those families and individuals in emergency accommodation and manage more effectively the influx of new households finding themselves homeless.

The statement went on to reference a number of projects being undertaken by local authorities to address the issue, as well as the government’s national ‘Rebuilding Ireland’ housing and homelessness plan. A review of that plan is under way which aims to ”identify what new and additional actions can be taken to improve the supply of housing across all tenures, with a particular emphasis on social and affordable housing”.

Read: Irish Human Rights Commission worried new hubs could ‘normalise’ family homelessness >

Read: Homeless families asked to pay €37 a week to live in ‘hubs’ >

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