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Dublin: 6 °C Monday 20 May, 2019
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'If it wasn’t for friends, I’d literally be on the streets'

EPIC has warned that young care leavers are at an increased risk of homelessness.

YOUNG PEOPLE LEAVING State care need to be prioritised in the government’s plan to tackle homelessness, according to an advocacy group.

EPIC, Empowering People in Care, has warned that the 6,500 young people currently in care are at an increased risk of ending up homeless when they leave care due to a lack of provisions.

Jennifer Gargan, Director of EPIC, said that young people currently leave care with “no safety net to fall back on”.

“The aftercare supports available to young people are patchy and dependent on where a young person lives. There is a severe crisis of accommodation options available which means that many young people leaving care are living in substandard accommodation, accessing homeless services or sleeping rough.

Young people accessing our service often tell us that they would rather sleep on the streets than be placed in a hostel. This type of accommodation is totally unsuitable, as young people can be exposed to substance misuse and violence.

Mark’s story

A 24-year-old care leaver, Mark Gray, shared his own experience of leaving care on Newstalk Lunchtime today.

He and his brothers were put into care at a young age due to their mother’s alcoholism.

“My ma was an alcoholic, and that’s solely the reason we were put into care. I don’t ever remember when I was six a social worker coming into the house to make sure that my ma was getting on good, the bills were paid or we were going to school.

I didn’t start school until I was eight, but no one questioned that.

Gray said that having to repeatedly change social workers led to instability and frustration.

I went through eight different social workers. You get used to a social worker but then by the fourth or fifth one that you get, you’re fed up. You don’t want to keep explaining your history.

Gargan noted that at present there are about 500 young people without an allocated social worker and over 800 without a current care plan.

Gray was discharged from an aftercare unit when he was 19 as he was not pursuing any form of education.

“It’s a huge problem now at the minute, my younger brother would be in the exact same boat as me. He’s in and out of the homeless shelters.”

Gray is currently staying with friends while he searches for somewhere to rent. He said finding accommodation is particulary difficult as landlords favour people not on rent allowance.

If it wasn’t for friends, I’d literally be on the streets in Dublin.

Gargan noted that aftercare currently only covers people aged 18-21 and called for a more flexible system to be introduced to protect the “most vulnerable”.

Read: Housing shortage could see “tsunami of homeless” in Ireland

Read: Body of homeless man lay undiscovered for a week at Dublin hospital

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About the author:

Órla Ryan

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