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The hidden homelessness of couch surfing

The hidden homelessness of couch surfing

THERE were 10 more children homeless in the Mid-West in June, compared to May. The figures for “hidden homelessness”, however, where people are couch surfing with friends and family, could push the figures higher.

Figures from the Department of Housing relating to the Mid-West show there were 112
dependents homeless during the week of June 19-25, compared to 102 from May 22-28.

In total, it found that 317 adults accessed local authority-managed emergency accommodation during the period June 19-25, of which 39 were in Clare and 278 in Limerick.

Of these adults, 42 are aged 18-24, 196 from 25-44, 72 from 45-64 and seven are over 65. About two-thirds were in supported temporary accommodation, including hostels, with on-site professional support. Another 82 were in private emergency accommodation, which may include hotels, B&Bs and other residential facilities.

The figures compare poorly with June of 2016, when there were 18 homeless adults in Clare and just 19 dependents in the Mid-West.

Tracey Reddy, client services manager with Mid West Simon Community, said homelessness is a growing problem in Clare and surrounding counties.

“Even in the last month, the number of children is up by 10 and any increase in children’s homelessness is something to be very concerned about. One of the things that we’re looking for is the Government to look at the loopholes that exist at the moment for people that are entering into homelessness from private rented accommodation. We’re seeing a lot of people coming into our service looking for support, who have received an eviction letter from a landlord. The reasons given are they are going to sell the property or a family member is going to move in. We would be looking for the Government to address issues like this, so people aren’t pushed into homelessness as a result of stipulations like that.”

Clare’s larger towns is where homelessness is most prevalent. Ms Reddy said it can be difficult for people to access the type of supports they need.

“You’d see the numbers in urban areas like Ennis, Shannon and Kilrush. There’s more visibility, if you like, of homelessness. One of the problems is getting supports to people who present as homeless in rural areas. Services exist in Ennis and we have a very busy office in Kilrush but, if someone presents in Clare as homeless on a Friday evening, their only option is to get in touch with the homeless unit in Limerick. How do they get into Limerick? How do they access the service?”

Even though homelessness is seen as a major problem, Ms Reddy believes the extent of it is still underestimated. “Another significant issue right across the country is hidden homelessness. These are people who are couch surfing. They are staying with a friend one night, family the next night, just simply because they don’t have accommodation themselves. They don’t want to present as homeless. We think the number of hidden homeless in Ireland is very high, but we don’t have figures for it.”

By Owen Ryan

Homeless families have taken to couch surfing.

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