Group warns over 4,000 domestic violence victims being ignored in housing crisis

SAFE Ireland says homeless figures do not include women fleeing abuse

SAFE Ireland, domestic violence, shelter, accommodation, women, annual statistics, Sharon O'Halloran

A shadow of a man with a clenched fist as a woman cowers in the corner in this posed photo | Image: Dominic Lipinski / PA Archive/Press Association Images

New research has claimed that victims of domestic violence are being ignored in the housing crisis.

The national organisation of domestic violence services, SAFE Ireland, says homeless figures are being greatly under-estimated because over 4,000 women and children being accommodated on a yearly basis in emergency refuge accommodation are not being counted and recognised as homeless.

A new report, 'The State We Are In', says in 2014 1,658 individual women and 2,349 children (4,007 in total) were accommodated in emergency refuge accommodation.

In addition, 4,831 requests for refuge could not be met because the refuge was full.

It says refuges remain at capacity levels today.

Government figures at the end of February show 912 families with 1,881 children were in emergency homeless accommodation - but SAFE Ireland says this does not include the majority of those in emergency refuge.

CEO Sharon O'Halloran stressed that women and children forced to leave violent homes are being caught in the cross-fire of the national housing crisis.

She said that 37 services that participated in new housing research as part of the research are reporting that they have "never seen things so bad" for women and children.

Severity of violence

New research also indicates that the frequency and severity of violence forcing women to leave their homes could be worse than previously documented.

The interviews with 40 women show that two-thirds of them had experienced physical abuse on at least a weekly basis.

For one-third of research participants, physical, emotional or psychological abuse was a daily feature of their relationship.

Half reported that they had experienced a serious threat to their lives in the first incident of violence.

SAFE Ireland stressed that a large-scale study was required to explore these findings more.

"This new evidence is indicating that some women and children may be experiencing violence every day of the year", O'Halloran said.

"Yet, when they escape this violence and look for two fundamental rights - access to a safe home and access to a justice system that responds to them seriously - they are being failed abysmally".

"According to local authority practice, women leaving violent homes are not being considered homeless; they are seen as being out of home, as they have a home, albeit an unsafe, violent one. They are being rendered invisible when it comes to their right to a safe home", she added.

SAFE Ireland is calling on the new government to take decisive action in the first 100 days of its term.

It wants an additional €30m annually to address gaps in struggling services - from the gardaí to specialist domestic violence services.

SAFE Ireland says three short-term actions could change women's lives immediately: a waiver to the free legal aid charge for victims of domestic violence, rent allowance to be granted to domestic violence victims immediately, and an end to the local authority 'centre of interest' requirement - which means women can only be assessed for housing in the county where they were living.