Words: Ellen Kenny
A new report from Focus Ireland suggests that a broader definition of homelessness will help officials tackle the problem.
Focus Ireland has recommended that the Government adopt a “broader definition of homelessness” in order to fully grasp the scope of the problem and create effective policies against it.
According to the report, From Rebuilding Ireland to Housing for All, the current metrics for homeless in Ireland are based on the number of people sleeping rough and use of emergency accommodation.
“Hidden homelessness was not widely seen as an issue by the Government,” the report explained, the concern being that “if someone were not in emergency accommodation, or living rough, then they were not defined or counted as being homeless.”
According to the report, only counting those sleeping rough or those in emergency accommodation as homeless has worrying implications. This definition significantly undercounts women’s homelessness, including lone parents who have dependent children with them, according to the report, because women may be more likely to respond to homelessness by relying on friends, relatives and acquaintances rather than formal services.
It also discounts people that are “effectively homeless” due to lacking security of tenure, physical control over their living space. This definition also excludes data on the number of people at risk of homelessness.
“The many exclusions from the current definition of homelessness in Ireland may impact negatively on monitoring, assessment and planning mechanisms in place.”
Focus Ireland recommended a broader definition of homelessness that clearly includes people living in non-conventional dwellings due to lack of housing such as temporary structures and mobile homes and people staying with friends and family due to lack of housing. According to Focus, this could lead to stronger emphasis on interagency working, social housing supply and preventative services.
Minister for Housing and Heritage Darragh O’Brien attended the launch of the report, promising that the State will build more social homes this year than any other year in history.
O’Brien said the government’s target is to build 300,000 new houses from now until 2030, 90,000 of which would be social housing.
The department’s latest statistics show there are 7,431 adults and 3,137 children registered as homeless.
O’Brien also added that, “right now, we do need good landlords in the market too.” When O’Brien can figure out the definition of a “good landlord” that isn’t simply “not a landlord at all”, I hope he lets us know.
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