What they won`t tell you about Ireland: the homelessness situation in Dublin

Felipe Wasserstein

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Sao Paulo and Dublin share more in common than you might think

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Homeless in Ireland
credits to: Jack (Flickr)

Ireland is an attractive location for many Brazilians pursuing language, undergraduate and postgraduate courses as well as new job opportunities. The visa requirements for non EU members in Ireland are considerably easier to obtain, the country is full of people from different nationalities, Irish nationals are friendly to foreigners and HDI levels are at 0.923 out of one (making it number eight in the world HDI table, according to the United Nations Development Programme).

In a moment where Europe and its biggest economies are facing difficult and uncertain times, the green emerald island appears to be one of the last safe and stable nations in the old continent.

For the Brazilians experiencing what has been deemed by the press as the biggest economic crisis in the history of the country, Ireland can be the second chance to build a better life. And indeed this might happen if you are healthy, young and with a college degree.

But if you are on the opposite side of this category, life in Ireland and its capital Dublin can be very harsh and even familiar to many Brazilians.

Yes, there are homeless in Ireland

Homelessness is associated with both structural factors such as poverty, inequality, lack of affordable housing coupled with system failures (e.g. individuals been released from hospital and prison without a place to go) as well as individual circumstances such as mental illness. But on Ireland, that are also other reasons contributing to this problem.

After more than five years of recession the income of many families fell due to job losses, pay cuts and reduced working hours. Structural economic factors, crisis in the private rented sector and the addition of many taxes such as property tax, the Universal Social Charge (USC) and water charges turned living more costly.

This reality led to an increasing number of homeless in Ireland and Dublin. According to Focus Ireland and the 2015 annual report from Simon Communities of Ireland, the country has more than 7000 homeless nationwide living in emergency accommodations and more 100.000 are on housing waiting lists. Almost 70% of them live in Dublin, according to the department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government.

Families, children and young adults

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Family Homelessness
Credits to: Louis Tanner (Flickr)

Rents continue to get higher and people on state housing supports cannot access the private rental market. There is also a supply shortage across the housing sector. For such reasons, the number of families applying to emergency accommodations grew by 40%, and today one in every three people living in an emergency accommodation is a child. By November 2016 approx. 2500 children were in this situation. A research conducted by Focus Ireland showed that more than 80% are between 0 to 12 years, and about 65% of them are sons and daughters from single parents. Almost all of those single parents (98%) are women.

Most of those families have never experienced homelessness before, and don`t have the range of psycho-social problems associated with it. Other families are struggling on low incomes or social welfare. The renting prices don`t correspond to their income.

But children are not the only new victims here. According to Focus Ireland young people between the ages of 18 to 24 are becoming homeless as well. Nicknamed “the forgotten homeless”, they were among the first victims of the housing crisis, since private landlords, social housing bodies and local authorities are reluctant to rent to them.

Government policies such as reducing welfare rates for people below 25 only added to the problem. Experiencing homelessness at this age can led to long-term or chronicle homelessness.

Monthly data released by the Department of Housing revealed that the total numbers of homeless below 25 continue to rise in Ireland and Dublin. Based on their February 2017 report, there are 550 of a total of 776 homeless aged 18 to 24 in Dublin alone.

 

Gender and homelessness

Another concern is the growing number of women experiencing homelessness in Ireland.

They usually experience homelessness different than men. According to a research conducted by Simon Communities named Women and Homelessness, females get trapped in homelessness cycles. They exit homelessness temporarily, only to return to it later.

Since homelessness is treated mainly as a male phenomenon, most of the services that tackle homelessness are based on the needs of men, often ignoring the needs of women, making their recovering very difficult.

A large part of the female homeless are on the streets because of issues related to domestic violence and physical/emotional abuse.

Such experiences leave severe traumas, impacting on their physical and mental health and in their abilities to cultivate healthy relationships. Their housing situation is also affected, and they have difficulties to live independently, manage a household and sustain a tenancy.

Women tend to stay with family and friends for as long as they can and present to services only when all of their options have ended. This reluctance increases the number of females sleeping rough. Most are also afraid that social services will take their children into foster care.

Comparison with other European countries

Homelessness is a significant issue in the biggest European economies. Countries like France, Germany and the United Kingdom not only are facing problems with their local population of homeless but also are dealing with a growing number of refugees and asylum seekers from the Middle East.

Germany in particular has received the majority of the refugees. In numbers Germany has 6 times more refugees than France, and 12 times more than the UK, according to research from The European Observatory for Homelessness.

Germany has approx. 335,000 homeless. About 60% of them are from Eastern Europe. Only nationals have a right to state welfare though.

In France 3.5 million people are living without adequate accommodation. There are 141,000 people living on the streets. This number is made up of young people, the jobless, former inmates and asylum seekers. Around 440,000 don`t have an accommodation of their own.   

In England there are more than 3,500 people sleeping rough. Four out of ten have at least one mental health problem. Local authority funds to avoid homelessness were cut by 45% between 2014 – 2015. Persistent cuts to housing related budgets have led to many shelters being closed.

 Like in Ireland, the governments of those countries have introduced policies to tackle homelessness. But the growing number of people living in the streets shows those policies are inadequate.

  

 

 

 

 

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Felipe Wasserstein