By Cian Molloy - 04 June, 2018
The “hidden homeless” are people who often don’t have the option to declare themselves officially homeless and to put themselves on the local authority emergency accommodation list.
The Society of St Vincent de Paul and three other charities are working together to highlight the plight of Ireland’s “hidden homeless”.
The hidden homeless are people who are “doubling up” and “tripling up” with friends and relations when looking for a place to stay for the night. These are people, individuals and families, who often don’t have the option to declare themselves officially homeless and to put themselves on the local authority emergency accommodation list.
Jennifer Thompson of the Society of St Vincent de Paul said these people’s living situations are often precarious, unsuitable and unsustainable. Despite experiencing many of the same challenges faced by those living in emergency accommodation, those experiencing hidden homeless don’t qualify for many support services, she said.
“When a household first loses their home, they are often forced to rely on their support networks of family and friends. Unfortunately, it often isn’t long before the pressure and strain of overcrowded conditions begin to show. Lack of space to store belongings, increased financial pressure on the host household, and the uncertainty of not knowing when, or if, a house may become available, all take their toll.
“It is vital that the scale and impact of hidden homelessness is acknowledged, greater access to homeless supports and information is provided, and sustainable, secure housing solutions found.”
Niamh Randall of the Simon Community further explained that because emergency accommodation is overflowing with demand, families and individuals presenting themselves to their local authority are often asked if they can stay with relatives instead of public housing.
“Homeless people stay with family or friends, in overcrowded and unsuitable accommodation,” said Randall. “The stress this creates is huge. They remain stuck because they cannot afford a place to rent and they cannot afford to buy. Eventually some end up in emergency accommodation as these temporary and unsustainable options break down. This has to change.
“The State must build and procure secure social and affordable homes for people. We need to move away from the heavy reliance on the private sector for the provision of social housing and ensure a greater focus on affordability.”