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Home > Homelessness Oversight Group submits its first report.

Keane, Martin (2014) Homelessness Oversight Group submits its first report. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 49, Spring 2014 , pp. 9-10.

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The first report of the Homelessness Oversight Group was recently released.1 The Group was established by the Minister for Housing, Jan O’Sullivan TD, in February 2013. Its role, as set out in the policy statement on homelessness launched by the minister on the same day, was to monitor and review progress on the housing-led approach to end long-term homelessness and need to sleep rough by the end of 2016.2  This first report, based on consultations with representatives from 36 stakeholders, a review of Pathway Accommodation and Support System (PASS) data on homelessness in the period ending September 2013, and detailed consideration of relevant policy-related material, gives a realistic account of the major obstacles to achieving the 2016 goals and a detailed set of recommendations on how these obstacles can be overcome.

 
 
Trends in homelessness
The Group acknowledges that changes to the methods of measuring homelessness over the last 10 years means it is difficult to track precisely what progress has been made in reducing either overall homelessness or long-term homelessness. However, they suggest that the indicators available point to progress being slow. In reviewing the available datasets, including the Counted in, 2008 estimates and Census 2011 and the PASS data, the authors signal that overall ‘it seems likely that no significant reduction in long-term homelessness had occurred between 2008 and 2011. Rough sleepers are on an upward trend… [and] …little change in the incidence of homelessness seems to have occurred in Dublin in recent years’ (pp.9–10).
 
Obstacles to progress to securing permanent housing
The housing-led approach seeks to place homeless people in sustainable rented accommodation as a first step, and provides ‘floating supports’ at the request of the person being housed. Such supports may include assistance with social welfare enquiries, developing independent living skills or seeking help for addiction problems. The Group’s report is quite explicit in identifying the key obstacle to this approach as a structural one, centred on the lack of integration between two social policy and implementation areas – care and housing. This lack of integration is neatly encapsulated in the following extract from the report:
 
…housing providers [i.e. local authorities, approved NGOs and the Department of Social Protection] have housing responsibilities which go well beyond the homeless and embrace a wide range of low-income households. … Their priority targets (such as families with children and elderly households) do not include the single adult males who make up the majority of the long-term homeless. Homeless agencies, by contrast, are more narrowly focused on provision of shelter, social supports and related health services to the homeless but also require access to long-term housing in order to meet what is the core need of their clientele – the need for a permanent home. … they depend on housing providers since they themselves have little role in housing but they struggle to make successful claims for access in the light of the low priority accorded to their clientele in the wider system of housing allocations. (p.10)
 
Recommendations to overcome blockages
The report’s core recommendation is that a high-level team be set up and given responsibility for achieving the 2016 objectives This Homelessness Policy Implementation Team would be part of the general housing policy section of the Department of the Environment, and supported by an implementation unit. It is proposed that the team would enter into service level agreements (SLAs) with approved housing bodies capable of accessing capital funding from the Housing Finance Agency to supply permanent housing units, and with agencies providing care and support for the homeless people when they are housed.
 
Are the 2016 objectives attainable?
The Group sets out four grounds on which the 2016 objectives can be realised:
 
·         The scale of homelessness is not insurmountable: an estimated 1,500–2,000 permanent housing units being made available over the next three years is not an unrealistic target given that the state currently provides an estimated 250,000 state-supported housing units.
 
·         There are many under-used housing units and related financial resources which could be used to tackle and reduce long-term homelessness.
 
·         Current expenditure on expensive short-term accommodation and shelter will be freed-up as the long-term homeless make the transition to permanent housing.
 
·         Services provided to meet the health and social care needs of homeless people have improved greatly since the early 2000s, providing a platform on which to build an infrastructure of care and support to sustain long-term tenancies when the supply of permanent housing is increased.
 
Recent research3 found that the views of stakeholders in Ireland were in broad agreement with the international consensus that responses to homelessness involve more than just providing housing in the form of ‘bricks and mortar’. Effective responses need to include housing alongside appropriate support, especially for people with high-support needs. The present report concurs with these findings, stating: ‘As the long-term homeless are moved into permanent housing between now and 2016…services will need to follow them and provide necessary supports in new ways and in new contexts’ (p.4).

1.     Kennedy M, Langford S and Fahey T (2013) Homelessness oversight group: first report. Dublin: Dublin Region Homeless Executive. www.drugsandalcohol.ie/21105
2.     Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (2013) Homelessness policy statement. Dublin: Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.www.drugsandalcohol.ie/19346
3.     Pleace N and Bretherton J (2013) Finding the way home: housing-led responses and the homelessness strategy in Ireland. Dublin: Simon Communities of Ireland.www.drugsandalcohol.ie/20183 
Item Type
Article
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Harm reduction
Issue Title
Issue 49, Spring 2014
Date
April 2014
Page Range
pp. 9-10
Publisher
Health Research Board
Volume
Issue 49, Spring 2014
EndNote
Accession Number
HRB (Electronic Only)

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