Francis Doherty, Head of Communications, writes about homelessness that exists outside of Dublin.
In the midst of a homeless crisis, with 8,270 people recorded as accessing homeless accommodation in late August 2017, it might seem strange to talk about ending homelessness. Although, even now, there are opportunities that exist that would mean that most of our local authorities could effectively end homelessness.
The homelessness issue is one that is by and large dominated by Dublin. That’s understandable, given that the vast majority of people in homelessness are located in Dublin. Other areas with significant concentrations of homelessness – 100 adults or more – include counties Cork, Galway, Limerick, Louth, Kildare and Waterford. However, homelessness has also impacted rural Ireland.
Adults in Homelessness in Rural Ireland
Local authorities in the 19 counties, where the number of homeless adults is less than 100, indicate varying degrees of homelessness. For example, Leitrim returns a zero figure for each monthly homeless report, while others range into the 70s such as counties Kilkenny, Meath and Tipperary.
In many counties the figure is in single digits, and in 14 of the 19 areas there are less than 50 adults in homelessness. In total, as of August 2017, these 19 areas accounted for 567 adults in homelessness or just 10.8% of all adults in homelessness across Ireland.
The table at the end of this blog post sets out the figures and trends for the period December 2014 – August 2017. The vast majority of counties show increases in the numbers of people in homelessness over that period, but three counties show a decline (denoted in green). While the figures shift, the fluctuations are relatively small and perhaps point to a limited will to aggressively attempt to reduce the numbers in homelessness to zero.
Ending not managing homelessness
Clearly, given the very low numbers involved, there is a real opportunity to eliminate homelessness in these areas. It’s important to remember that these areas also have less pressurised rental markets, lower property acquisition costs and lower new residential construction costs. There is also greater land availability for new small scale social housing projects, which could be built specifically to meet the needs of homeless individuals.
It would seem that there is a significant opportunity to effectively end homelessness across most of Ireland. However, in order to get there, we need the political ambition to end homelessness in Ireland. Once we can bring about that ambition, the response to the issue of homelessness can shift from simply trying to manage it, to seeking instead to eliminate it. That’s where ambition comes into the equation – but is there an ambition to end rural homelessness?
In Peter McVerry Trust’s submission to the review on Rebuilding Ireland, we asked the Government to commit to effectively ending homelessness everywhere outside of Dublin by 2021. As successive Government targets to end homelessness have come and gone, Peter McVerry Trust genuinely believes that given the numbers of adults experiencing homelessness in rural areas, we are ignoring a real opportunity to make the majority of Ireland a homelessness free zone.
It is possible that given the scale of the homeless problem in Dublin, the Government and the Department of Housing have not recognised this opportunity to end rural homelessness. However, given that Peter McVerry Trust has raised this issue formally on a number of occasions, we must now see a series of robust measures in the revised Rebuilding Ireland programme that aim to end rural homelessness in Ireland.