Focus outlines homelessness-avoidance strategies

Housing charity report looks at best ways to prevent families from losing homes

Focus Ireland says it prevented 240 families from becoming homeless in the first 10 months of 2017. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

Focus Ireland says it prevented 240 families from becoming homeless in the first 10 months of 2017. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

 

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 on Wednesday.

“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.