End to homelessness by 2016?
An initiative piloted in the US could be the key to Ireland’s goal of ending long-term homelessness by 2016, writes Brian O’Connell
Last February, Minister of State Jan O’Sullivan reiterated Government plans to end long-term homelessness in Ireland by 2016. In outlining how Government policy would help achieve this, O’Sullivan said the focus would be on housing-led philosophies – giving people long-term, stable housing options as early as possible and moving away from past models of passing homeless people through various stages before eventually securing permanent housing for them.
Agencies for homeless people and those working at the frontline of homelessness in Ireland have already taken on this model. Added focus is now being brought to the issue with attempts to adopt a US programme entitled Community Solutions, which aspires to house 100,000 vulnerable and chronically homeless persons across 150 communities in that country by July 2014.
The national movement works with local agencies and individuals in a number of ways to impact on long-term homelessness. Firstly, the organisation asks communities to identify every homeless person in their area by name, and to obtain a set of data from them that in turn allows the agencies to establish accurately their precise needs. All local agencies are then asked to house at least 2.5 per cent of their chronic homeless population each month, which would mean an end to homelessness in four years’ time. And finally, greater communication and pooling of knowledge is applied between existing agencies and services, so that systems used to house homeless people are made more efficient, and local teams are given clear goals and methods of working together.
Helen McGuire, project manager for Community Solutions in Ireland, is currently liaising with all key stakeholders working in the area of homelessness here and hopes they will be able to put into practice some of the measures that have worked in the US. A seminar is planned for Dublin next year, which would introduce experts from Community Solutions in the US to some of those agencies dealing with the issue of homelessness in Ireland. Currently, the work in adapting aspects of Community Solutions in Ireland is focused on Dublin, where the majority of long-term homeless persons here are located, but efforts are underway to enable agencies learn from projects that have been successful in other Irish cities.
“We are encouraging a lot of people working in this area to mobilise around the Community Solutions concept,” says McGuire. “That is a challenge. We are committed to the goal of ending long-term homelessness by 2016, and we want to look at how different cities are doing that. In one year’s time, we hope to have less people on the streets of Dublin and to be working closely with Government to have less people on our streets nationally.”