Charity warns of rising crisis in youth homelessness

New figures show the number of 18 to 24-year-olds in difficulty has shot up by 78% in the last three years

Homelessness charity Focus Ireland has warned that Ireland is facing a rising crisis in youth homelessness.

New figures show the number of 18 to 24-year-olds in difficulty has shot up by 78% in the last three years.

The Department of Housing figures reveal that 776 young people were homeless and in emergency accommodation in February.

It marks a huge increase from the earliest available figure of 436 which was recorded in April 2014.

It means that 18 -24-year-olds now make up over 10% of the record number of 7,421 people who are currently homeless in Ireland.

Forgotten homeless

The charity warned that young people have been hit particularly hard by reduced rates of social welfare and other issues - and are in danger of becoming the “forgotten homeless.”

It has called for its new scheme, 'Housing First for Youth,' to be expanded across the country.

The scheme provides young people with housing as quickly as possible and offers intensive & targeted, person-centred supports including healthcare, counselling, education, training, financial advice and more.

The method has been tested and proven to work in North America and elsewhere in Europe and the charity said it is much more effective than traditional ways of helping people in homelessness:

“We have succeeded, in consultation with Tusla and Limerick City Council, to provide homes for 40 young people through this project,” said Focus Ireland spokesman, Roughan Mac Namara.

“We would like to see this replicated across the country because if we don’t get young people who are marginalised, who have other difficulties, such as mental health, employment education difficulties - if we don’t get them out of homelessness quickly we can be leaving them entrenched for long periods.”

State supports

The charity’s director of advocacy, Mike Allen said the results of the trial so far have been “very positive” - adding that supports from state bodies will be crucial in order to roll it out country-wide.

“We have already set up 40 young people in secure homes,” he said. “12 of them are in secondary school or third level education and 23 are in training or employment.”

“When a young person falls into the nightmare that is homelessness, there’s always an underlying reason - Not getting accommodation or support upon leaving State Care, family problems, mental health challenges and/or purely economic pressures and unemployment.’’

"Focus Ireland  - and others – are providing many vital services in co-operation with the State and Local Authorities but a lot more needs to be done as these young people are in danger of becoming the forgotten homeless if we don’t have more action.’’

Easter appeal

The charity has also launched a special Easter appeal as demand for its services continues to rise.

The appeal focuses on the experiences of a young woman - known as Paula for the purposes of the campaign -who recently experienced a traumatic period of homelessness. 

“More than anything I wanted a future,” she said. “I wanted control of my life. I was sick of life being something that happened to me, having no choices ... always running.”

“I can’t tell you how amazing it is to have a home and to not be on the streets anymore.

“One day soon I’m going to close my own door, lock it behind me and feel safe. I’m going to sit down, relax and start planning my next move.  Looking for a job, doing a course and starting my new life.”

You can donate to the appeal here or by calling 1850 204 205.