Char­ity sets out steps to stop fam­i­lies los­ing homes

Fo­cus Ire­land work­ing to en­sure fam­i­lies know rights and how to ac­cess en­ti­tle­ments Char­ity says struc­tural changes needed to bring about long-term so­lu­tions

The Irish Times - - Home News - KITTY HOL­LAND So­cial Af­fairs Cor­re­spon­dent

Hous­ing char­ity Fo­cus Ire­land has said it has iden­ti­fied the five most im­por­tant strate­gies to pre­vent fam­i­lies be­com­ing home­less.

It said these are build­ing fam­i­lies’ aware­ness of their rights; en­abling them to ac­cess their en­ti­tle­ments; coach­ing them in how best to seek hous­ing and present at view­ings; sup­port­ing them in ac­cess­ing their fi­nan­cial sup­ports; and pro­vi­sion of tai­lored and in­te­grated sup­ports.

These, how­ever, “can only hope to achieve short- and medium-term so­lu­tions” for fam­i­lies in cri­sis, the char­ity said in a report pub­lished to­day.

“They do not, and can­not, in any way ad­dress the struc­tural causes that place fam­i­lies at risk of home­less­ness: the ab­sence of reg­u­la­tion in the pri­vate rental mar­ket; the ab­sence of af­ford­able rental prop­er­ties and qual­ity so­cial hous­ing; and dif­fi­cul­ties as­so­ci­ated with ac­cess­ing the hous­ing as­sis­tance pay­ment (Hap).

“Longer-term so­lu­tions are there­fore rooted in sig­nif­i­cant struc­tural change, change that needs to take place at a na­tional pol­icy level.”

Fo­cus Ire­land said it has pre­vented 240 fam­i­lies from be­com­ing home­less in the first 10 months of 2017.

The find­ings are in­cluded in the report, Keep­ing a Home: Pre­vent­ing Fam­i­lies from Be­com­ing Home­less, which looks at the ef­fec­tive­ness of home­less­ness preven­tion strate­gies.

Best meth­ods

Some 35 heads of fam­i­lies who, when on the brink of home­less­ness had en­gaged with Fo­cus Ire­land, were in­ter­viewed about what worked best for them.

Just un­der half of the fam­i­lies were Dublin-based, the re­main­der were in Water­ford, Sligo, Lim­er­ick and Kilkenny.

All had chil­dren, with 21 par­ent­ing one or two chil­dren and 14 with more than two chil­dren.

Some 24 were Ir­ish na­tion­als, eight were EU na­tion­als and three were non-EU na­tion­als. Some 25 were de­pen­dent on so­cial wel­fare, five were work­ing full-time and five part-time.

The most com­mon rea­sons the fam­i­lies were fac­ing home­less­ness were: the home was be­ing sold (14 fam­i­lies); rent ar­rears (six fam­i­lies); rent in­crease (five); hav­ing to leave due to sub­stan­dard ac­com­mo­da­tion (three); and land­lord’s fam­ily mov­ing in (two).

Many fam­i­lies didn’t know their rights, the report finds.

One house­hold head said: “I haven’t a clue of any of this. My key worker has been a rock in ad­vis­ing me.”

Oth­ers found ac­cess­ing their en­ti­tle­ments very com­plex, while oth­ers found coach­ing in deal­ing with prospec­tive land­lords at view­ings in­valu­able.

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