Address

Homelessness

Pillar One: Address Homelessness

Introduction

Providing an urgent response to the homeless crisis, Pillar One focuses on taking immediate action to help those on the streets and those in emergency accommodation, including families in hotels.

Additional healthcare and support services will be provided to address addiction and mental health, as well as many of the other underlying issues that can trigger or prolong homelessness. A “whole of Government” approach will be taken to address this challenge, with the co-ordination of inter-agency supports for people who are currently homeless.

To address the unacceptable level of families in emergency accommodation, including hotels, this core pillar of the Action Plan will provide early solutions and an increase in the level of housing made available, including new innovative solutions such as rapid build housing and acquisition of vacant private properties by the Housing Agency.

A key objective is identifying people at risk of losing their homes and to support their efforts to remain in them, with particular emphasis on tenancy sustainment and supporting those in mortgage arrears.

people were recorded as homeless in February 2017

Pillar Actions

2016 saw 3,052 exits from homelessness nationally. Pillar One’s key actions include early solutions to address the unacceptable level of families in emergency accommodation and the provision of housing:

  • We’ll expand the Housing Assistance Payment’s (HAP) homeless tenancies to 550 in 2016 and 1,200 in 2017. In 2016, 810 households in the Dublin Region benefitted from the scheme. The 2015 target was surpassed.
  • We’ll build at least 1,500 rapid delivery homes by 2018. 350 are advancing through the various stages of delivery, including construction by the end of 2016. A further 650 will be advanced in 2017.
  • 1,600 existing vacant units will be sourced by the Housing Agency.
  • We’ll triple the ‘Housing First’ programme’s unit target in Dublin from 100 to 300.
  • By the end of 2016 we had put in place an additional 210 emergency beds for individuals/couples and rough sleepers, at a cost of up to €6.1 million. A further two new facilities are in planning.
  • The HSE’s annual budget for homeless services will be increased by approx. 20% – €6 million. This will provide health, mental health and addiction supports to rough sleepers and people in emergency accommodation, who often have complex needs that must be addressed in tandem with the provision of stable housing. 
  • We’ll keep people in their homes where possible, with financial and legal support for people in mortgage arrears and a nationwide free-phone service for tenants by end 2016.

Ireland’s homelessness in numbers

4,875

adults in State-funded emergency accommodation in February 2017

1,239

families are included in this total

2,546

dependants are associated with these families

142

rough sleepers recorded in Dublin on 22 November, 2016

2,300

sustainable exits from homelessness during 2015

3,052

sustainable exits from homelessness in the first nine months of 2016

300

tenancies to be created for the entrenched homeless under the Housing First initiative, which Focus Ireland/Peter McVerry Trust are contracted to provide

60

year construction guarantee on the Rapid-Build units in Ballymun

421

homeless households, since 1 January 2017, have been supported under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP)

810

tenancies created under the Dublin Homeless HAP Pilot in 2016

12,075

HAP tenancies were set up in 2016 (Rebuilding Ireland’s target was 12,000)

19,425

active HAP tenancies in place by 20 March 2017

10,700

is the approximate number of Rent Supplement tenancies that were protected in a two-year period under a Department of Social Protection initiative to protect clients at risk of homelessness as a result of increased rents


Supporting Homeless Families

We’ll phase out the use of hotels by mid-2017, except for emergency cases, and provide more supports for families with children.

The prevalence of homeless families and the use of hotels for emergency accommodation is a much more significant issue in the Dublin Region than it is in the rest of the country – approx. 90% of homeless families are in the Dublin Region. Our intention is to move the existing group of families out of these hotel arrangements as quickly as possible and, by mid-2017 hotels will only be used as emergency accommodation in exceptional circumstances.  

Rapid-Build Housing

Rapid-build housing offers a more stable environment than the use of hotels for families in need of emergency accommodation. By 2018 at least 1,500 rapid delivery units will be delivered. Enabling works on sites for 131 of the units in Ballyfermot, Drimnagh, Belcamp and Finglas in Dublin have been completed and construction commenced during November. By the end of 2016, 350 units will be advanced through the various stages of delivery, including construction. A further 650 will be advanced in 2017 and the remaining 500 in 2018.

Expanded ‘Housing First’ Programme

Through ‘Housing First’ we will provide permanent, stable and supported housing to our long-term homeless individuals and thus reduce the reliance on emergency accommodation over time. We are tripling the ‘Housing First’ unit target in Dublin from 100 to 300 and strengthening the approach in other major urban areas throughout 2017.

 

Sourcing Vacant Housing Units

The Housing Agency will acquire 1,600 vacant properties, a number of which will be used to provide permanent homes for homeless families. The Housing Agency will be directly funded with €70 million in capital Exchequer funding to find and acquire suitable portfolios of vacant properties for social housing, including homeless families, directly from financial institutions and investors. These 1,600 units will be delivered by 2020.

The Housing Agency acquired 171 properties on behalf of Local Authorities in 2015 and the first half of 2016. Since the launch of the new initiative, the Agency has completed the acquisition of 15 additional properties and has had bids accepted on a further 228. The Agency will have signed contracts to acquire the majority of these properties before the end of 2016.

The increased supply of social housing targeted in Rebuilding Ireland’s plan, 47,000 homes by the end of 2021, will also ensure that more homes are provided for those who are homeless and for those at risk of homelessness.

Housing Assistance Payment for Homeless Households (HAP)

The Homeless Pilot of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme has been operational since February 2015 and we will expand it to increase the transition of households from emergency accommodation into private rented tenancies. This expansion will see 550 tenancies created in 2016 and 1,200 created in 2017. So far this year in excess of 650 tenancies have been secured. 69% of the households accommodated under the pilot are families with children.

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Supporting Homeless People with Mental Health & Addiction Issues

A new National Drugs Strategy is currently being prepared by the Department of Health for implementation from January 2017 onwards and it will include specific strategies and actions to address the rehabilitation needs of homeless people with addiction issues. We will improve mental health and primary care services for homeless people with an additional funding allocation of €2 million this year which will be increased to €6 million in 2017.

Emergency Shelters

In order to minimise the need for people to sleep rough, we are committed to ensuring that there are sufficient emergency beds available in our urban centres for homeless individuals.  We will urgently review the current availability of temporary emergency accommodation and supported temporary accommodation in our main urban areas to determine appropriate availability consistent with need.

Supporting Families with Children

Over 2016 - 2017, the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) and Tusla, the child and family agency, will continue to operate the Dublin Region protocol in relation to appropriate responses to child protection and welfare concerns among families in emergency accommodation. The operation of this protocol will be reviewed in December 2016 and refined as appropriate. These protocol arrangements will be extended nationally.

The following additional measures will be put in place primarily by the Department of Children & Youth Affairs (DCYA) and Tusla, but also with input from Department of Housing, Planning, Community & Local Government (DHPCLG) in relation to public transport costs:

  • Dedicated Child Support workers will be appointed. The workers will develop support plans for children and families with a particular focus on those with specific needs.
  • Home School Community Liaison and School Completion staff will assist children and families experiencing homelessness to maintain regular school attendance and prioritised access to the School Completion Programme for services such as breakfast and homework clubs. Access to free public transport will be provided for school journeys and outings away from the emergency accommodation.
  • Access to crèches and pre-school services will be provided to homeless families.
  • Family support for those in emergency accommodation by providing off-site family time including play, homework, cooking and washing facilities and parent support.
  • Tusla will appoint specific staff to assist in accessing requisite family support and child welfare services and managing any difficulties that arise for children in relation to school participation.
  • The nutritional needs of families and children will be addressed.
  • A joined-up approach will be promoted between education, health (including public health nursing) and Tusla to meet the needs of homeless families, by using the existing Children and Young People’s Service Committees.
  • A safety guidance/voluntary code for child safety in emergency accommodation will also be produced and reviewed. A new facility with accommodation for pregnant women who are homeless will be provided.

Young People Leaving State Care

Across 2016 - 2017 we will work to ensure that young people leaving State care and at risk of homelessness are identified and catered for through appropriate housing and other supports for their needs.

Domestic Violence

Tusla will provide additional emergency refuge spaces for victims of domestic violence and DHPCLG will provide guidance to housing authorities on the role they can play to assist victims in securing new, independent tenancies. This provision will take place over 2016 - 2017.

Prisoners

We will enhance and implement national procedures and inter-agency arrangements to ensure that prisoners, including sex offenders, do not exit prison into homelessness.

National Awareness Campaign

In 2017 a national awareness campaign will be rolled out, targeted at families and individuals worried about, or at risk of losing their homes. The Threshold Tenancy Protection Service will be extended nationwide.

Mortgage Arrears

We will request the Central Bank to conduct an assessment of existing sustainable restructuring solutions across all lenders and non-bank entities operating in Ireland and will ensure there are sustainable restructuring solutions available to distressed borrowers.

Mortgage Arrears Resolution Service

We will provide access to independent expert legal and financial advice for people who are insolvent and are in serious mortgage arrears on their home. We will also ensure that an insolvent person who is at risk of losing their home can access independent advice which will help them to identify their best options, for returning to solvency – with priority given to remaining in their home, where that is a sustainable option.

Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears

In 2017 the Government will work with the Central Bank to ensure that the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears provides a strong consumer protection framework for borrowers struggling with their mortgage repayments.

Mortgage to Rent

We will examine how the Mortgage to Rent scheme can be improved to facilitate more households, and explore alternative models for the purchase of units, including long-term leasing arrangements.


Pillar Two: Accelerate Social Housing

Pillar Three: Build More Homes

Pillar Four: Improve the Rental Sector

Pillar Five: Utilise Existing Housing

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