A recent report by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive on families who entered homelessness in Dublin in 2016 and 2017 highlighted that 33% of families entering homelessness are headed by a non-Irish national. This compares unfavorably with 11.6% in the general population.
So why are non-Irish families over-represented in the homeless population?
Part of the answer is that they are not if you look at the structural causes of homelessness.
The Focus Ireland insight into family homelessness series has shown that families are becoming homeless from the private rental market. Figures provided to Focus Ireland by the CSO show that migrant headed households account for 41.7% of those renting in the 4 Dublin local authority areas.
The reasons that non-Irish nationals experience homelessness are broadly the same as those of Irish nationals; in short they are pushed out of the private rental market, and they do not have the resources to get themselves back into that market.
However there are some differences. A feature of the family homelessness crisis has been the efforts that families make to keep themselves out of homelessness by doubling up with family and friends while they seek solutions. These options may not be open to all non-Irish national families. So smaller social networks can mean they are forced to enter homelessness at an earlier point.
One positive of this is that they can avail earlier of the services that are in place to address their homelessness and it appears that many do so with success. This is indicated by the fact that while 33% of the families entering homelessness are non-Irish nationals the percentage in the homeless population appears to be lower.
We do not have a definitive figure as the monthly homeless figures are not broken down by nationality, but the census report on homelessness in 2016 found that 14% of those experiencing homelessness nationally were non-Irish nationals.
If they are experiencing homelessness for broadly the same reasons why do we differentiate between Irish and non-Irish?
It is important that we have this information in order to provide the best services. While the structural reasons for homelessness are the same for any family, the responses that are needed can be different. This is particularly true for responses to prevent homelessness.
Providing equality of access to supports is not the same as providing equitable support. For example some migrant communities might not be as aware of support services that are available. That puts a duty on service providers to ensure that we are getting the information to them.
Differentiation is only problematic where this information is allowed to be utilized to project divisionary ideas of deserving or undeserving people. That discourse is morally repugnant and draws attention away from the structural causes of homelessness.
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