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Friday 15 December 2017

Number of homeless 18 to 24-year-olds soared by 78pc over the last three years

The number of homeless 18-24 year-olds here has risen by 78% since April 2014
The number of homeless 18-24 year-olds here has risen by 78% since April 2014

Kathy Armstrong

The number of homeless 18 to 24-year-olds here has soared by almost 80 per cent over the last three years.

Focus Ireland said the situation is at crisis point as the latest figures from the Department of Housing show there are 776 young people who are either homeless or in emergency accommodation, this is an increase of 78pc from 436 in April 2014.

There are a record 7,421 people who are homeless in Ireland and those aged 18 to 24 account for 10pc of that figure.

Focus Ireland Director of Advocacy Mike Allen spoke about how more must be done to prevent people from becoming homeless and to support those who don't have a roof over their head.

He said: "We know that young people aged 18 to 24 outside of families have really been hit hard by the reduced rate of social welfare available to them. When a young person falls into the nightmare that is homelessness, there’s always an underlying reason. Not getting accommodation or support upon leaving State Care, family problems, mental health challenges and/or purely economic pressures and unemployment.

"It is wrong that young people are often left to fend for themselves in these situations. 

Stock picture/PA
Stock picture/PA

"Focus Ireland - and others – are providing many vital services in co-operation with the State and Local Authorities but a lot more needs to be done as these young people are in danger of becoming the forgotten homeless if we don’t have more action."

Mr Allen talked about their Housing First for youth initiative, which provides housing for young people as quickly as possible and then targeted supports such as healthcare, counselling, education and financial advice.

He said the method has already been a success in the US and in other parts of Europe.

Read More: Coveney must show leadership and tax vacant homes as first step toward easing housing crisis

He said: "We have already begun to trial it in Ireland, and the results are very positive. Our Housing First for Youth pilot scheme in Limerick has seen huge success – we’ve already set up 40 young people in secure homes. Twelve of them are in secondary school or third level education and 23 are in training or employment. 

"A crucial factor in the success of the pilot has been the active collaboration of Limerick County Council, TUSLA and alongside the resources we can bring to this project.

There are 776 young people who are either homeless or in emergency accommodation (Stock image)
There are 776 young people who are either homeless or in emergency accommodation (Stock image)

"The approach has also proven successful in Cork and we’ve expanded the scheme to North Tipperary, Dublin and Clare. If this kind of cooperation can be replicated elsewhere then we could transform this situation. Our plan now is to roll it out countrywide but this will take time and support."

As demand for Focus Ireland's services continues to rise, they have launched a special donations appeal for Easter.

Their appeal has used a woman, identified as Paula (not her real name), who opened up about the trauma of being homeless.

She said of living on the streets and in sheltered accommodation: "More than anything I wanted a future. I wanted control of my life.

Mike Allen, director of advocacy with Focus Ireland. Photo: Damien Eagers
Mike Allen, director of advocacy with Focus Ireland. Photo: Damien Eagers

"I was sick of life being something that happened to me, having no choices. Always running.

"When I got in touch with Focus Ireland the staff were amazing. They’ve found me a temporary place to live and they’re going to help me to get a flat. I’m so excited!

"I can’t tell you how amazing it is to have a home and to not be on the streets anymore. One day soon I’m going to close my own door, lock it behind me and feel safe. I’m going to sit down, relax and start planning my next move.  Looking for a job, doing a course and starting my new life."

Read More: We’re becoming a land of renters – but bedsit rules are hampering homeless

Mr Allen said that helping to provide the stability of a home can be the first step in helping someone to change their life.

He said: "A future is exactly what we at Focus Ireland want to offer young people like Paula. And we do this in a unique way: by giving them a home first so that they can solve their other problems.

"The traditional homelessness services can focus on providing food and emergency accommodation. While this is helping, we believe it is a short term answer and we need to move beyond this emergency response by ensuring  people can secure a home as quickly as possible."

To donate to the Focus Ireland Easter appeal visit www.focusireland.ie/donate/from/2017-easter-media/  or call 1850 204 205.

89 cent from every euro Focus Ireland receives goes on services to combat and prevent homelessness.

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