Ireland has been working to reduce homelessness and improve emergency services for its disadvantaged citizens for years. Current structures and policies help the homeless but leave out the struggling youth. The forgotten young people of Ireland have been ignored by social housing programs and blocked from receiving full welfare payments. To end youth homelessness in Ireland, the government is looking at the gaps in policies that allow young people to slip into poverty.
Youth homelessness in Ireland has increased by 90% in the last three years, leaving over 850 people aged 18-24 without a place to call home. Just five years earlier, only 450 young adults were homeless, exemplifying the growing issue in Ireland. The Department of Housing Planning, Community and Local Government (DHPCLG) provides these statistics, but the data is incomplete.
In addition to these figures, there is also a prevalence of the “hidden homeless” among Irish youth. The hidden homeless include those couch surfing, squatting or residing anywhere that is not sustainable. Because these young homeless people are not utilizing state services or shelters, they are excluded from data on youth homelessness in Ireland.
In 2016, the number of young people still living at home with their parents increased by 19%, reflecting the rise in rent and lack of affordable housing available. While these people support their parents, children that come from broken, abusive or absent families have no one to care for them once they reach 18.
Homeless or impoverished minors are looked after by Tusla Child and Family Agency. However, just like parents, they have no legal responsibility to take care of the children after the age of 18. These policies neglect to account for transition periods leaving young people alone the moment they reach legal adulthood.
Currently, Ireland’s approach to its homeless situation is mostly emergency, reactive services. To reduce youth homelessness in Ireland, the focus must pivot to prevention and intervention for at-risk young people. The factors that force young people into homelessness often begin in their childhood. They experience poverty, traumatic life events, family conflict and general instability from a young age and are not given the tools to transition successfully into adulthood.
Young people are at the bottom of the list to get accommodations in social housing and local authorities. After being bounced around between social housing, emergency shelters and other temporary government accommodations, young people often give up on the system because they become tired of the repeated placement circuit. Landlords often reject young people due to a lack of finances and references or simply because they find young tenants undesirable. This age discrimination is one of the main causes of youth homelessness in Ireland.
Citizens under the age of 26 are not eligible for full welfare payments and can only receive reduced payments if they receive anything. Stifling the financial welfare of people from such young age rather than offering support leads to long-term poverty and increased homelessness in the community.
Two-thirds of young homeless people in Ireland reside in Dublin. Here, many living spaces are used as Airbnbs. As more short-term rentals pop up and crowd the city with tourists, more young citizens are forced to sleep on the streets.
A six-year study into youth homelessness in Ireland focused on 40 young people between the ages of 14-22. The majority of these participants came from situations where they experienced trauma and severe poverty, leading them to drop out of school early. More than half of the participants in the study reported they had tried heroin and have a criminal record showing the severe consequences when disadvantaged young adults have no support system. Most of them had experienced homelessness by the age of 15, illustrating the need for early intervention in these tumultuous situations.
The Coalition to End Youth Homelessness in Ireland is comprised of sixteen organizations and charities dedicated to getting young people off the streets. This issue has been forgotten for many years. Still, all of these organizations are stepping up to end the neglect of the country’s young and bring awareness to the issue.
The Coalition to End Youth Homelessness recommends the Irish Government invest in mediation, counseling and mentoring services for minors that live in instability. Through intervening in difficult family situations early, the government can provide tools to children to facilitate a smooth transition from a rocky childhood to successful adulthood.
Housing First for Youth offers safe housing for young adults ages 18-24 and ongoing aftercare. They also support the full transition into their adult life. Without an aftercare plan and a sense of support, the odds of a young individual falling back into homelessness are high. Housing First for Youth facilitates positive, supportive relationships between the young homeless and their caseworkers, making them feel less alone in the world.
To help young people exit homelessness and live independently, they need safe housing and continued support. There are currently no social housing programs specifically for young individuals. There are risks when young people reside in accommodations inhabited by adults including intimidation, exploitation and exposure to criminal behaviors.
Other organizations in Ireland have recognized the prevalence of youth homelessness and made efforts to provide safe spaces and support for disadvantaged young people. Good Shepard Cork caters to homeless individuals ages 15-19, specifically focusing on women and children that are susceptible to fall back into homelessness. Continued support is essential to ending youth homelessness in Ireland and lifting these young people out of poverty permanently.
The six-year study published by The Health Research Board illustrates the effects of an impoverished childhood. By conducting research such as this long-term study, officials can pinpoint the early causes that lead to a life of poverty and find ways to intervene. Ensuring that struggling youth remain in school and receive ongoing support can help to reduce youth homelessness in Ireland.
Prioritizing Homeless Youth
Investing in community and school-based prevention methods has helped reduce youth homelessness by 40% in Australia and Canada. To reduce youth homelessness in Ireland, the government must follow their lead and pivot toward prevention rather than emergency services. By prioritizing the homeless youth in government policies and services, the state can prevent long-term homelessness and reduce overall poverty rates in the country.
– Veronica Booth