Focus Ireland Issues New Report & Announces it has prevented 240 families from becoming homeless in first 10 months of 2017
—–Charity also reports that it has helped over 700 families to secure a home and escape homelessness in the same period in partnership with the State-
Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy TD opening a seminar today (6th December) where the findings of two Focus Ireland reports were presented – ‘Keeping a Home’ and ‘Finding a Home’.
The ‘Finding a home’ report looks at the charity’s services to support families out of homelessness and was published earlier this month. The ‘Keeping a Home’ report examines Focus Ireland’s case management services that prevent families from becoming homeless, and was launched at the seminar. Focus Ireland said the findings of both independent reports (Commissioned by the charity) will help it to refine and improve its family services.
Focus Ireland also announced at the event that its case management services have prevented 240 families from losing their home and becoming homeless in the first 10 months of 2017.
The newly-published report “Keeping a Home” (commissioned by Focus Ireland and part-funded by Bord Gais Energy) was conducted independently by Neil Haran and Seán O’Siochrú. The two researchers spoke to 35 families the charity’s case management services were working with – to prevent them from becoming homeless – to help track which supports each household found most effective. The researchers used this information to help outline both strengths and weaknesses in the current prevention services offered by Focus Ireland. The families featured in the report were interviewed across a range of locations including Dublin, Waterford, Sligo, Limerick and Kilkenny.
The report also provided a very useful breakdown of the main risk factors for homelessness amongst the families which are outlined below divided into 9 categories:
Notice To Quit (as property for sale ) – 14 families;
Rent arrears – 6 families;
Rent increases – 5 families;
Substandard accommodation – 3 families;
Notice to Quit – (Landlord using property
for family members) – 2 families;
Anti-social behaviour – 1 family;
Notice To Quit – (Property unsuitable)- 1 family;
Personal insolvency – 1 family; Refugee status – 1 family.
Focus Ireland CEO Ashley Balbirnie said: “This research as a vital part of our organisational strategy of concentrating more of our resources on the prevention of homelessness. The homeless crisis has continued to deepen with over 8,000 men, women and children now homeless nationwide. However, it is important to highlight that this crisis would be even worse without the work of Focus Ireland and many other organisations – working with the State in terms of prevention and housing provision.”
“We are supporting more families to move out of homelessness than ever before as we helped over 700 families to secure a home and move out of homelessness in the first ten months of this year in partnership with the State. But the number of families becoming newly homeless is also at record levels. Unless we can become much more effective at preventing homelessness we will never end this homelessness crisis.”
The “Keeping A Home” research indicates that Focus Ireland has operated a series of prevention services that have proven effective in the medium-term in enabling families to avoid entry or re-entry into homelessness. At the time of interview, between 3 and 15 months after disengaging with Focus Ireland, 34 of the 35 families in the study had succeeded in avoiding homelessness, with the support of Focus Ireland playing a crucial role.
The services are funded by the local authorities in Dublin, Waterford, Limerick, Sligo and Kilkenny, with Bord Gais Energy providing funds for additional services as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility. The report found that critical feature of these prevention services was the creation of holistic, family-orientated interventions, designed to address the immediate and varied presenting needs of families accessing services.
Focus Ireland said that many families facing homelessness just need an ‘Advice and information service’, but the new report shows that for some families in immediate risk of becoming homeless a more intensive case management approach is required to get them through the crisis they are facing without losing their homes.
The report outlines how Case management services not only meet the practical housing needs of families but also a broader range of social, economic and emotional needs that accompany the risk of being made homeless. One line in report states that: “Focus Ireland staff have provided these services in a respectful, non-judgmental and humane manner, demonstrating deep empathy for families and considerable commitment to their work.”
The success of this approach was seen as one family in Waterford said: “Apart from the practical support, Focus Ireland also gave me emotional support during what was a really stressful time. They kept me focused. Getting advice on whom to contact meant that I wasn’t going from post to pillar all the time. The attitude in Focus Ireland was always really positive and very relaxed. I’d come in stressed out of my head and the staff would say “let’s ring somebody”. They were always on the lookout for solutions. And it was never just one solution. They just added to my confidence.’
The main recommendations for prevention practice included highlighting the effectiveness of the case management approach when taken to help families with complex needs by providing them with an integrated package of supports. This means that the Focus Ireland prevention services need to work with families in this situation over a period of time to help ensure they do not lose their housing and become homeless. The report also outlined the need for prevention services to take a non-judgmental approach when dealing with families as this helps to build their emotional and psychological confidence during a very stressful time.
The report also highlights that prevention services will only be truly effective if the structural causes of homelessness are addressed by Government, in particular:
- New measures to strengthen the rights of tenants when landlords decide to sell the property or start using it for family members
- Stronger regulation in the private rented sector including the much greater enforcement of existing tenancy legislation to the rights of families were not undermined.
- Increased provision of social housing. The families argued that policy needs to be in place that obliges local authorities to free up empty properties swiftly to make them available for households in need.
This is the second report published from Focus Ireland in the last month. On 18th November, Dr Kathy Walsh and Brian Harvey’s “Finding a Home” was released (commissioned by Focus Ireland and part-funded by Human Dignity Foundation). It is at this event that the findings of the report are presented publicly for the first time.
The reports can be viewed at https://focusireland.ie/resource-hub/publications-and-partnerships/