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 2021

Pillar Actions

2020 saw almost 5,900 exits from homelessness nationally. Over the course of the year, the number of people in emergency accommodation fell by over 1,500.  There were fewer families in emergency accommodation at the end of 2020 than at any time since March 2016 (predating the launch of Rebuilding Ireland).  

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 tenancy scheme. Households in the Dublin Region benefited from the scheme and 2,500+ tenancies were supported under the Dublin Homeless HAP initiative in 2019.
  • In 2020 the Housing First programme was expanded into all regions of the country and by the end of the year. Over the course of the year an additional 214 tenancies were created nationally.  This means that by December 2020, over 500 people with a history of rough sleeping or long-term homelessness were in their own homes with wraparound supports. 
  • The Homeless HAP Place Finder service has been made available to all local authorities. More than 2,500 households in the Dublin region have been supported by the Homeless HAP Scheme in 2020.  Nationally, the corresponding figure was over 4,800 households.
  • Under the Cold Weather Initiative, extra emergency beds have been introduced in the Dublin Region with a further contingency beds available to ensure that there will be sufficient beds available for all that require shelter.
  • The HSE’s annual budget for homeless services 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 . An Aid and Advice Scheme for people in serious mortgage arrears is in place as part of Abhaile, the National Mortgage Arrears Resolution Service. Tenancy Protection free-phone service has been extended nationwide.

Ireland’s homelessness in numbers

5,974

adults in State-funded emergency accommodation in February 2021

935

families are included in this total

2,264

dependants are associated with these families

3,000+

sustainable exits from homelessness in 2016

4,000+

sustainable exits from homelessness in 2017

5,000+

sustainable exits from homelessness in 2018

5,900+

sustainable exits from homelessness in 2019

5,886

sustainable exits from homelessness in 2020

1,221 

Families exited emergency accommodation into a tenancy in the Dublin region in 2020

10,500+ 

Homeless households had been supported under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme by the end of 2019

7,500+ 

HAP tenancies had been set up by the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive by the end of 2019

52,529

Active HAP tenancies (as of the end of 2019)

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

Rebuilding Ireland includes the objective that hotels will only be used in limited circumstances as emergency accommodation for families. It is recognised that hotel accommodation is inappropriate for accommodating homeless families for anything other than a short period of time.

To meet this objective, in addition to providing for long-term housing needs, housing authorities have been pursuing the delivery of a range of additional and enhanced family-focused facilities, or family hubs, which offer a greater degree of stability than is possible in hotels and B&B accommodation, while move-on options to long-term independent living are identified and secured.  Continued presentations of families into homelessness services mean that it is still necessary to use hotels in some cases. It is expected that the use of hotels will reduce as more family hubs are developed.

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. As of October 2020, 459 individuals have been housed under the Housing First Programme. Housing First services have commenced in Cork, Limerick and Galway.

 

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 have expanded it to increase the transition of households from emergency accommodation into private rented tenancies. As of Q2 2019, 6000+ tenancies were supported under the Dublin Homeless HAP Pilot.

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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. A review and revision of the protocol has been completed and arrangements are in hand for its extension to other regions on a phased basis throughout 2017. 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.  The Abhaile Service has been launched details here. 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. The review of this scheme has taken place and the details are here.

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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