Homelessness means more than just sleeping rough. Sleeping in hotels, hostels, on a friend’s couch is also included in the definition of homelessness which I will explain more about at the start of my essay. In this essay I am going to be discussing Homelessness in Ireland and within that topic I will be discussing the homeless crisis in Ireland, social housing and the housing first policy. I will be looking at statistics within homelessness, the HAP scheme and what it is, the causes of homelessness and solutions for homelessness.
The definition of homelessness can be split between three different types of homelessness, such as visible homelessness – these are people sleeping rough on the streets, hidden homelessness- people who are couch surfing and sleeping in emergency accommodation, and at risk of homelessness- these are people who have a house but who are at risk of losing it due to the economy (Focus Ireland, 2020).
The number of homeless people has risen drastically over the past 10 years. In late December 2019 there were 9,731 people homeless across Ireland and 3,442 of those are children. In 2011 a special census was done to see how many people in Ireland were homeless, this included hidden and visible homelessness. There were 3,808 people homeless in Ireland when the census took place (Census, 2011). Homelessness is more common in males than in females as males are more inclined not to ask for help or to admit that they are struggling. In the 2011 census statistics you can see that the percentage of men living rough or in accommodations is much higher that it is for women. There was 2,539 men were homeless where there was 1,269 women (Census, 2011). People who are homeless are more likely to have mental health problems and are more subjectable of getting an addiction problem. A homeless person’s average life expectancy is only forty years old which is half the life expectancy of somebody who isn’t homeless. Homeless people are 17 times more likely to be a victim of violence. One in three people who are sleeping rough on the streets have been a victim of violence (Crisis, 2020).
Causes of Homelessness
A lot of people become homeless due to not being able to pay their rent any more or being unable to afford any sort of accommodation as the costs of accommodation is rising and is unaffordable to a lot of people. People end up sleeping rough due to unemployment, poverty, or marriages breaking down. Some people after they leave the army, care, or prison have nowhere to go when they get out or leave so they end up having to sleep on the street. For women who end up on the streets there is a high chance it has happens due to escaping a toxic or abusive relationship (Crisis, 2020).
Housing First Policy
The housing first model was conceived in 1992 as a response to people with mental health issues who were living on the streets. The target group for this model is people who have been sleeping rough or who have been using emergency accommodation for a long period of time, who have mental health and addiction needs. Housing first offers the provision of affordable and permanent accommodation (Rebuilding Ireland, 2018). They try to do this in the quickest way they can. Housing first will house the person who needs it the most first. They don’t have to be in remission or sober to be given a house. The housing first policy looks at who is in need of a house and who needs it the most. If a person in housing needs mental health or addiction services to help them, they will be provided with the necessary services after they have been placed (Rebuilding Ireland, 2018).
Housing First Europe Hub
The EU housing first hub is a network of organizations, foundations, and public authorities who are working to scale up housing first around the EU. The hub was established in Finland by a group called the Y-foundation in December 1985. It was also founded by the FEANTSA (European Federation of National Organizations Working with Homeless People), along with more than 15 partners in July 2016. There are four organizations in Ireland involved in the housing first EU, these include, Focus Ireland, The Simon Community, DePual and Respond (Housing First Europe Hub, 2020).
Organizations within the Homeless Sector
Focus Ireland is an organization who tries help families or individuals experiencing homelessness, and if someone is already experiencing homelessness, they provide the best supports possible for that individual or family. It will also help families and individuals from ever having to experience homelessness again (Focus Ireland, 2018).
The Simon Community provides medium and high supports for homeless people who are unable to live independently on their own. They also provide independent accommodation for families, couples, and also individuals. The Simon Community provide lots of services such as addiction aftercare, alcohol detox, counselling services, Residential Stabilization Respite and much more (Dublin Simon Community, 2020). They do their best to hep as many homeless people or families as they can and they do a lot of fundraising for homeless such as sleep outs, runs, and charity shops.
DePaul is a charity who supports couples, families, and individuals experiencing homelessness. Their mission is to end homelessness and to change the lives of people who have been affected by homelessness. According to DePaul they have helped 4000 people in the past year. There are five main sectors within DePaul, these include, families and young people, health and rehabilitation, housing, high support accommodation and prevention (Ie.depaulcharity.org, 2020).
Social Housing is for people who can’t afford their own accommodation. The housing is allocated based on the needs of the family or individual and the rent rate is based on the ability on being able to pay it. For people to be able to qualify for a social house the must need a social house and be eligible for one. You will only be assessed for a social house if the authority believes you are eligible for one meaning you are at need of one and meet the criteria.
Eligibility for Social Housing
There are three maximum thresholds that apply to different housing authorities. Every county in Ireland has a different threshold and there are also different thresholds for if you are applying for social housing alone or if you are applying with a family. There are three different bands in which a person can fall into. The bands are the maximum amount of income a single individual in a single household can earn. There is an allowance of 2.5% extra per child in the house and 5% per extra adult in the house hold, e.g band one for a single individual is €35,000, with one child it would be an additional €875 because of the 2.5% added on (The Irish Government, 2016).
HAP stands for Housing Assistant Payments. HAP is provided by all local authorities and it is a social housing support scheme. HAP means that anyone that qualifies for social housing assistance can be supported by the local authorities; this also includes Rent Supplement recipients (Housing Assistance Payment, n.d.) HAP aims to let their tenants keep their housing supports while still working full time and allow all social housing supports to be accessed through one body which would be the local authority. Anyone who hasn’t been housed by their own local authority and who qualifies for social housing support can apply for HAP.
How Does HAP Work
HAP tenants must find their own accommodation within the private rented market themselves after they have qualified for the HAP scheme and have been put on the local authority housing waiting list. After they have found their own property the landlord of that property must agree to rent it out to the HAP tenant. The local authority will make a monthly payment to the landlord which will be on the last Wednesday of every month. The payment is subject to terms and conditions including rent limits, and that the HAP tenant pays their rent contribution to the local authority. The rent contributions are usually made through the An Post’s household budget scheme. If the HAP tenant stops paying their rent contribution, then HAP will suspend their payments to the landlords and will eventually stop the payments all together. If this happens then the tenant will be fully responsible in paying their own rent (Housing Assistance Payment, n.d.).
In conclusion I have discussed that there are three different types of homelessness, hidden homelessness, visible homelessness and at risk of homelessness. That in 2019 there were 9,731 people homeless across Ireland which is a huge number and is a number that needs to be decreased drastically. There are more men on the streets or in emergency accommodation than there are women. There are many reasons for homelessness in Ireland such as divorce, alcohol abuse, addiction and much more. The housing first policy helps many people find homes and they don’t care if you are suffering from addiction or have mental health issues. They give their houses to the people who need them the most first which are important. They provide services for people who are suffering from addiction or who need mental health services after they have been housed. There are many organizations in Ireland such as Focus Ireland and DePaul, who are involved in helping the homeless and who do great work such as charity events etc. I also discussed social housing which is for people who can’t afford their own house or rent. They can get this through the HAP scheme or their local authority but they must be eligible for social housing. Homelessness is one of the biggest crises in Ireland and there is a lot that needs to be done to fix it and it will take years. I don’t think it will ever be one hundred percent fixed but I think if the government work hard and if everyone can do what they can to help the cause then a big difference could be made in a few years. A lot of young people voted Sinn Fein this year in the election as they promised to lower costs of housing and rents and to build 100,000 new houses over the next five years (Sinnfein.ie, 2020).
- Census (2011). Census 2011 Results. [online] Central Statistics Office, p.1. Available at: https://www.cso.ie/en/media/csoie/census/documents/homelesspersonsinireland/Homeless_persons_in_Ireland_A_special_Census_report.pdf [Accessed 3 Mar. 2020].
- Crisis. (2020). About Homelessness | Crisis | Together we will end homelessness. [online] Available at: https://www.crisis.org.uk/ending-homelessness/about-homelessness/ [Accessed 29 Feb. 2020].
- Dublin Simon Community. (2020). Treatment | Dublin Simon Community. [online] Available at: https://www.dubsimon.ie/what-we-do/treatment/ [Accessed 3 Mar. 2020].
- Focus Ireland. (2018). Our Services List – Focus Ireland. [online] Available at: https://www.focusireland.ie/our-stories/our-services-list/ [Accessed 2 Mar. 2020].
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- Rebuilding Ireland (2018). Housing First National Implementation Plan 2018-2021. Dublin, pp.8-11.
- Housing Assistance Payment. (n.d.). What is HAP?. [online] Available at: http://hap.ie/whatishap/ [Accessed 2 Mar. 2020].
- Housing Assistance Payment. (n.d.). How Does HAP Work? [online] Available at: http://hap.ie/howhapworks/ [Accessed 2 Mar. 2020]
- Housing First Europe Hub. (2020). Home – Housing First Europe Hub. [online] Available at: https://housingfirsteurope.eu/ [Accessed 3 Mar. 2020].
- Ie.depaulcharity.org. (2020). Our Services | Depaulcharity. [online] Available at: https://ie.depaulcharity.org/our-work/our-services [Accessed 3 Mar. 2020].
- Sinnfein.ie. (2020). Giving Workers & Families a Break: A Manifesto for Change. Pp5, [online] Available at: https://www.sinnfein.ie/files/2020/SF_GE2020_Manifesto.pdf [Accessed 8 Mar. 2020].
- The Irish Government (2016). Social Housing Policy. pp.1-2.