Rise in number of people becoming homeless after leaving State care

Focus Ireland: 15% of the care-leavers it works with in Dublin are homeless

Jasmine Mooney: ‘I want to settle and have a bit of stability. My life, it feels like it’s on hold.’ Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Jasmine Mooney: ‘I want to settle and have a bit of stability. My life, it feels like it’s on hold.’ Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

A growing number of young people are leaving State care and becoming homeless, according to one of the leading charities working in the area.

Focus Ireland describes as “unacceptable” that 15 per cent of the care-leavers it is working with in Dublin are now homeless.

Neil Forsyth, care services manager with the charity, said that while the numbers had “not gone up dramatically”, in the overall context of the housing crisis, “young people leaving care in particular are finding it increasingly difficult to find housing”.

The number of 18-24 year olds in emergency accommodation has increased by 8 per cent in the past year – from 811 in August 2017 to 875 last month.

Though not as dramatic as the 15 per cent increase in overall homelessness (from 8,270 to 9,527) – which is being largely driven by the increase in child homelessness – a disproportionate number of this age group are coming from the care system, according to Focus Ireland.

It is working with 102 care-leavers across Dublin of whom 15 are homeless, and says it has 107 young care-leavers across the capital on its waiting list who are at risk of homelessness.

“While most young people from a care background do transition successfully to independent living, it is unacceptable that now one in seven people using our aftercare service in Dublin is homeless or in unstable accommodation such as sofa-surfing,” said a spokesman.

Focus Ireland is calling for ringfenced funding for accommodation for care-leavers and an increase in the number of Tusla aftercare workers to support them, to ensure a ratio of one aftercare worker per 20 young people.

Meeting with Minister

The development comes as the Irish Aftercare Network, an umbrella body representing 40 organisations working with children and young people in care, said it had been trying without success for two years to get a meeting with Minister for Children Katherine Zappone on its concerns about aftercare services.

“Since late 2016, the network has tried repeatedly to secure a meeting with Minister Zappone, to discuss serious and ongoing concerns the network has about the quality of service provision for young people leaving care,” it said in a statement.

“In particular, the network wishes to discuss with the Minister the lack of adequate resources being provided by Tusla, the lack of proper implementation of the 2011 National Aftercare Policy, the inadequacies of the 2017 revised National Aftercare Policy (2017) and concerns about the aftercare provisions in the 2015 Child Care Amendment Act, 2015.”

A spokeswoman for Tusla, which oversees care services, said while accommodation was not within its remit, it advocated strongly for young people on the issue.

“There are also occasions where Tusla works with young people who are due to leave care to ensure they can stay in their current placement until appropriate accommodation is sourced.

“Tusla is currently increasing the number of staff employed in the aftercare service. A wide range of additional supports are in development including drop-in support services, a website, practical living supports, and accommodation.”

The Department of Children did not provide a comment.

Case study

Jasmine Mooney (20), who has been in State care since she was 11, is now homeless.

She is one of 10 young people, aged 18-21 and all care-leavers, currently accommodated in a Focus Ireland facility in Dublin’s Mountjoy Square area.

She was assigned an after-care worker when she was 17 to help prepare her for independent living.

“I turned 18 in February but they moved me into here in July after I got the Leaving Cert out of the way . . . I didn’t realise this was a homeless service until I moved in here and they started talking about me finding my own place.

“You’re only meant to stay here 18 months but with the housing crisis, I haven’t been able to get a place. I am ready to leave but even though I’d get €990 a month in HAP [Housing Assistance Payment] there is nothing. A one-bed is minimum €1,300, or even €2,000.

“I went to loads of viewings but got turned away because I am a student. They think, she’s going to be having parties, which I wouldn’t.

“Sometimes I think the only way I’d get out of here is to have a child. That’s how it feels, that the Government is forcing girls like us to have a child to get a place. But I want to have a future and have a life. I’m in college and want to be a social care worker. It’s hard to study though when you don’t know where you’re going to be in a few months.

“Really I’d like a council place because I have had so many moves in my life. I want to settle and have a bit of stability. My life, it feels like it’s on hold.”