Young people leaving State care face ‘real risk’ of homelessness

Focus Ireland says many vulnerable young care leavers are in insecure accommodation

More than a third of young people leaving State care, who are working with one specialised charity, are either homeless or at risk of homelessness new figures show.

Focus Ireland, which works with young care leavers referred to it by Tusla, will issue the figures on Tuesday.

Neil Forsyth, Focus Ireland services manager says more than one in 10 of the care leavers whom his staff work with in Dublin are homeless while another 18 per cent are in insecure accommodation and at risk of homelessness.

The charity is working with 119 young care leavers across Dublin. A total of 14 of them are homeless and 22 are at risk of homelessness.


“This is totally unacceptable and the harsh reality is that it is some of the most vulnerable young people using our services that are at real risk because they are homeless,” says Mr Forsyth.

Sleeping rough

One woman (25), originally from Co Wicklow, has been intermittently homeless since she left State care seven years ago.

“I ended up in care when I was 13. I had a load of different placements. In one year I had 24 different placements. They kept breaking down because of behavioural issues. I was very angry.

“The last placement I was in was a residential service, from when I was 16, and I got on well there. I was doing my Leaving Certificate and I wanted to go to college, but two days before the end of my Leaving Cert I was told I had a choice of going back to my family or going homeless. My social worker did fight for an after-care worker for me but I was told they wouldn’t fund it.”

Since then, she has stayed in hostels and slept rough. For a few months she had a private rented flat but that broke down due to her mental health issues. She says she got into drugs, partly just to survive her environment.

"In the end I got a bed in the Regina Ceoli hostel, got my own room and I was able to get my head together. I got off the drugs and I linked in with Saol." Saol is a community project in Dublin's north inner-city supporting women in addiction with such services as education, counselling and childcare.

Secure housing

She is now staying in supported temporary accommodation in Dublin but hopes to secure a long-term home for which she has an interview with an approved housing body next week. If she gets it, it will be her first secure home since she turned 18.

“I always knew I would need support after I left care and I never got it. There was no way I could go back to my family. It was the same family, with addiction and mental health problems, as the family I left. I don’t know how they expected me to go back there, or manage on my own. I was still a child, knew nothing about how to look after myself and I was just dumped out into the world.”

Less than a decade ago, according to Mr Forsyth, all care leavers Focus Ireland worked with had secure housing. “As the homelessness crisis grows deeper every day we must insist it is unacceptable that now nearly a third of young people using our aftercare services in Dublin are homeless or at risk.”

Focus Ireland is calling for an extension of the ring-fenced funding for accommodation for care leavers and an increase in the number of after-care workers.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times