ChildLinks Issue 3: Homelessness

Barnardos. (2016). ChildLinks Issue 3: Homelessness.
The number of families and children experiencing homelessness in Ireland today is the highest since records began. The latest Department of Housing figures reveal that more than 1,100 families are homeless, including 2,363 children. Many families are spending months living in hotels, B&Bs or other emergency accommodation. While the longitudinal research required to fully understand the impact of homelessness on children has not yet been undertaken, we know that inadequate, unsafe or insecure housing has serious repercussions. The impacts on children are far reaching, affecting a child’s mental and physical health, social and emotional development, education and their key relationships. There is no question this is a serious crisis and that children are the most vulnerable victims. In the first article in this issue of ChildLinks on homelessness and its impact on children and families, Barnardos looks at some of the reasons for this crisis and makes recommendations as to the multilevel response required – family-friendly emergency accommodation in the short term, greater security for medium-term housing and, ultimately, providing more long-term homes. Women who find themselves homeless during pregnancy are particularly vulnerable, often lacking the type of support available to most new mums. An article from Anew outlines the support the organisation offers to women during and after pregnancy, providing an accommodation service to women who find themselves homeless as well as counselling and life skills classes. After the birth and the initial supports have been given, women are then helped in moving on to live independently with their children. The next article discusses the relationship between homelessness and domestic violence, drawing on selected narratives from women who participated in a qualitative study of women’s homelessness in Ireland. Women’s economic dependence on their partners emerged strongly in the narratives as well as the fear that their children would be taken into State care if they sought help at a domestic violence refuge. Focus Ireland, in an article about their Family Homeless Action Team, describes supporting families experiencing homelessness during their time in emergency accommodation and assisting them to move on to stable accommodation. In Dublin, almost 75% of families experiencing homelessness are residing in commercial hotels with many families staying for long periods in single hotel rooms, without access to cooking or washing facilities. Given the scale of the current crisis, and the number of families who have to be accommodated on a nightly basis, families are often residing considerable distances from the schools their children are attending. Families are also removed from their personal support structures, such as other family members. The final article in this issue is another from Barnardos which looks at the experiences of one family and gives a worrying picture of the difficulties being faced. It is clear that stronger action is needed from Government to relieve the pressure of the housing crisis on families.