The number of people homeless has reached a new record high, according to recent data from the Department of Housing. As a response, politicians and activists are asking the Government to provide new social and affordable housing but the problem cannot be solved ignoring a major factor, i.e. family breakdown.
According to the Homeless Quarterly Progress Report, between April and June this year, the most common reason for family households seeking emergency accommodation is breakdown in relationships or changes in family circumstances.
Surprisingly, evictions or financial problems did not top the list of family cases leading to homelessness.
Family breakdown and change in circumstances, instead, were the leading reasons for homelessness in family households, accounting for 282 instances out of 972 total cases. These findings underscore the critical importance of addressing underlying family issues to prevent homelessness in the first place.
As local authorities now report the reasons for presentation in emergency accommodation, the true extent of the crisis has become more apparent, revealing a 24.5% increase in family presentations and a 32.5% surge in new families entering emergency accommodation.
While the report does not provide historical comparisons, it is clear that family-related issues play a significant role in driving people to homelessness.
In April this year, the ban on eviction came to an end, affecting both single and family households. The notice of termination has emerged as the leading reason for homelessness among single households. However, for family households, it is the second most cited reason. This suggests that the lifting of the eviction ban has disproportionately impacted individuals living alone, potentially pushing them into homelessness at a higher rate.
The figures presented in the report also underscore the crucial role of functional families in preventing homelessness, after eviction. When families remain intact and supportive, they act as a vital safety net for their members during difficult circumstances. Functional families provide emotional support, financial assistance, and even alternative accommodation options, reducing the likelihood of their members falling into homelessness.
Contrary to common beliefs, the report reveals that insufficient funds, affordability, or no income are not the most significant factors leading to homelessness among families. While financial issues undoubtedly contribute to homelessness, it is clear that relationship breakdowns and family circumstances play a more prominent role in pushing families into emergency accommodation.
A staggering 56% of families entering emergency accommodation are single-parent families, according to the report. This statistic highlights the vulnerability of single parents in the face of housing instability and homelessness.
Moreover, even if not the most significant factor, family breakdown still contributes to an increased demand for accommodation and put pressure on the system.
The latest data on family homelessness in Ireland unequivocally points to the urgent need for comprehensive solutions. Addressing the root causes, such as relationship breakdowns, family crises, together with the lack of affordable housing, is essential to prevent families from slipping into home emergencies.
The figures provided in the report call for a reevaluation of the homelessness debate. Family breakdowns should be given more prominent attention as a key factor contributing to homelessness. Policies and interventions aimed at preventing and addressing homelessness must consider the complex dynamics of family units and provide adequate support to families facing crises.