The way to end homelessness is to give people homes
The way to end homelessness is not by muddling along with temporary and emergency accommodation, the clear solution to the crisis is to give people homes.
Rent prices are 23% higher than they were in the height of the Celtic Tiger, house prices are set to rise by 20% over the next three years and there will be more than 8000 people homeless in Ireland tonight and tomorrow night and the night after that.
It is an egregious violation of human rights, to live without permanent shelter, without sanitation facilities, without constant access to clean drinking water, without much hope of long-term housing, and yet it is a constant feature of Irish cities and the numbers are still rising.
With the exception of Finland, every country in the European Union has rising numbers of homeless. In 2015 the number of homeless families in Dublin increased by 60% in the space of 12 months.
As the only country not struggling with a homeless crisis, what exactly has Finland done to solve the problem?
They’ve provided people with homes.
Rather than suspending people in temporary accommodation for years, the Finnish give people homes as soon as they become homeless. It is a policy of housing first, and everything else second. Homeless people don’t have to earn the right to a home, instead, they are provided with long-term stable accommodation and individually tailored support.
Prevention and intervention is the Irish equivalent to the Housing First policy. Here, agencies work to provide intensive support before households lose their homes and therefore prevent a slide into homelessness.
This concept was successfully put into practice by Wicklow County Council and the Simon Community who worked over the course of one year to secure long-term housing for residents of a caravan park in County Wicklow. The residents of Fairfield Park were given one year’s notice prior to its closure.
The caravan park was initially designed to be a holiday park but in the years since its opening, it became a place of permanent residence for 48 households. As a result of the disparity between the comparatively low rent of Fairfield Park and the surrounding houses and apartments in the area, the risk of Fairfield's residents becoming homeless was perceived to be high.
Dublin Simon community worked with Wicklow County council over the course of a year to ensure that all of the residents were rehoused.
Joel Clarke is one of these former residents, a father of two young boys, he was living with his sons in a caravan for three years.
The conditions in the caravan were far from ideal, they weren’t insulated and the cold permeated in the winter. Former resident Joel Clarke, said “my kids were always getting sick from the cold, you’d be able to see your breath in the morning”.
Joel was paying €155 a week in rent and he was receiving help from St Vincent de Paul as well as rent allowance.
When the caravan park gave notice of its closure Joel began to look for private rented accommodation. The stumbling block he routinely encountered was landlords who were reluctant to accept the HAP, Housing Assistance Payment, which has replaced rent allowance as a social payment to help low-income households pay their rent.
After months of rejection, uncertainty and phone calls to landlords going unanswered, Joel was offered a lifeline.
He was called for an interview to become a tenant of Tuath Housing, this would essentially grant him a home for life.
After a successful interview Joel was told he would be given a house in the New Year, and the interim period would be spent in temporary accommodation.
Two weeks ago Joel and his two sons moved into his new home in Greystones.
You can watch his full story below;
The prevention and intervention before families and individuals become homeless is essential to arrest the rising numbers of homeless in Ireland and the provision of homes for those who are currently trapped in temporary accommodation is the solution that people are crying out for and now needs to be followed through by the government and local authorities.
Simon’s Homeless Support Service in Wicklow provides vital outreach, housing, settlement and homelessness prevention services, working with people who are homeless or at risk.To learn more about Dublin Simon Community and how you can support the services they provide across Dublin, Kildare, Wicklow and Meath please visit www.dubsimon.ie