By Susan Gately - 24 January, 2014
Homeless support agency sees doubling in numbers coming to homeless support
A homeless support service run by Threshold, the national housing charity, recorded its busiest ever year last year. Threshold’s Dublin Access Housing Unit received 800 referrals in 2013, an increase of 77 per cent on the previous year. The Unit provides support to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless to source accommodation in the private rented sector.
“Referrals to our service almost doubled in the past year, due to a range of factors,” said Fionnughla McLoughlin, Assistant Manager of the Access Housing Unit. “Demand for accommodation in the private rental sector has been rising steadily in Dublin in recent years, and there is a serious shortage of rental accommodation in the city. This has driven average rent prices up.”
In addition to this said Ms McLoughlin, welfare cuts and caps on rent supplement were having the effect of making it impossible for low income and vulnerable families to “make their rent or find suitable accommodation within their price-range”.
Threshold noted a drop of almost 75% in the amount of rental properties advertised on a leading property website between 2010 and 2013. In the same period, the number of landlords willing to accept rent supplement was down from 21% to 1.2%. “This means, for low-income tenants in Dublin, there are very few options available,” she said.
According to Threshold, referrals to the organisation’s homeless support service rose steadily not only in 2013, but also in the previous three years. In 2010, the service dealt with 260 referrals; in 2011, this figure increased to 394; and, in 2012, it was 453.
“We have been operating this service for 10 years, and there have been steady increases in the numbers of people referred to us year on year,” said Fionnughla McLoughlin. “This is symptomatic of a wider problem: unfortunately, more and more people are currently finding themselves at risk of homelessness.”
During 2013, the Access Housing Unit resolved 81 cases of homelessness. A majority of these involved children, with 51 children in total housed by the Unit last year.
“Homelessness, obviously, impacts particularly harshly on families with children. Their education is disrupted; family support networks break down; and there is a huge mental and emotional strain for those affected. In light of this, it’s particularly encouraging to note the number of children helped through our Access Housing Unit this year,” said Senator Aideen Hayden, Chairperson of Threshold.
Senator Hayden also outlined how Threshold’s Access Housing Unit continues to support people after moving them out of homelessness, through Slí – Support to Live Independently, where they visit people to ensure those who have been housed are given the best opportunity to succeed in their new homes. “Importantly, a lot of work is also done to address the issues that led them to experience homelessness in the first place,” said Senator Hayden.