Contexts of Homelessness
The calamitous circumstances of homelessness lands people in a soul-destroying struggle for survival. In the homeless morass which they are trapped they experience destitution, isolation, and despair. The new order is languishing on bleak streetscapes in a sense of abandonment in a nowhere-land . No one enters or remains in this place of their own volition. This domain of homelessness is “worlds’ apart” from where people have jobs, opportunities, secure homes, and live in comfort and harmony of settled vibrant communities.
Causes of Homelessness
Homelessness is a complex issue. Social, individual and structural factors impact on peoples lives and cause them to become homeless.
Social factors such as family breakdown, social exclusion, mental health problems, drug or alcohol misuse, difficulties with sexual orientation and poor physical health.
Individual factors apply to personal circumstances and may include traumatic events, personal crises, mental health challenge and addiction problems. Relationship factors can include family violence or abuse and addictions. There is also the impact of mental health problems of other family members and the hardship of poverty.
Structural factors are economic and social circumstances that effect opportunities and social environments for individuals.. Structural reasons can also lead to homelessness due to low income, rent or mortgage payments, debt and unemployment.
Definitions of Homelessness
Broadly speaking, people who cannot provide themselves with somewhere safe and secure to live are experiencing some form of homelessness or are at risk of homelessness.
More specifically, the Housing Act 1988 defines a person as homeless if:
(a) there is no accommodation available which, in the opinion of the authority, he together with any other person who normally resides with him or might reasonably be expected to reside with him, can reasonably occupy or remain in occupation of, or;
(b) he is living in a hospital, county home, night shelter or other such institution and is so living because he has no accommodation of the kind referred to in paragraph (a) and he is, in the opinion of the authority, unable to provide accommodation from his own resources.
There are currently over 4000 households on the waiting list in Limerick. Private rented supply is at the lowest level in a decade. Rent supplement and Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) need to be increased in line with the private market rent levels . The vast majority of private rented properties on the market- 90% are beyond the reach of people on benefit.
Resources and Support for Homeless People
ACT Thomond House and voluntary housing agencies are working in partnership with the statutory sector to provide support services for homeless people. In effect the voluntary housing agency becomes” a sponsor and guide “ in assisting the person to source housing and to follow a stability pathway in order to overcome their difficulties. (see website pages: services and partnership.)
Appropriate Housing Solutions for Homeless People
There is no one size fits all housing solution. The homeless profile differs regionally throughout the country and housing policy and service planning must be flexed accordingly. Individuals and households have varying needs and preferences from individual units to shared accommodation and in complex needs circumstances people may require placement in permanent supported housing.
Social Protection Support Levels
The inadequate level of rent allowance is adding an extra cost to the tenant in terms of meeting the market rent. Because landlords can get higher rental from people gainfully employed those on social are now having to add substantially more of their limited finance to compete for rental property. This is money which they don’t have.