Housing First - The Solution to Ireland's Homelessness Crisis?
Month on month figures reveal that more and more men, women and children are finding their way onto our streets with no home to call their own. We need a change of strategy to effectively address the homelessness crisis in Ireland.
The government’s strategy in dealing with homelessness has been to provide short-term emergency accommodation through local authorities. Yes, this is better than doing nothing at all for people who find themselves with nowhere to go. But is it effective? Does it give people the platform to grow and make a life for themselves and their family? Does the current programme try to figure out why people are in their current situation and take proactive action to ensure that they and future generations will never have to face homelessness again? Unfortunately, the answer to these questions is no. It really is a case of putting a band-aid on a bullet wound.
Housing First - Ireland’s Alternative
Homeless services in Ireland generally operate on a staircase recovery model. In short, those seeking to be housed must prove their worth. For example, this can be done by living continuously in a homeless shelter while completing an addiction course or rehabilitation programme to prove one’s suitability for a home if substance abuse is identified as an issue. However, without a home one could only imagine the daily struggles you would face, mental and physical. The expectation of then entering and working your way up through the staircase model to secure housing is an unrealistic means to select those who need a home.
The Housing First Model sees the stairways recovery model as having the order backwards. The stages of the Housing First Model are:
Firstly, supply the person in question with a home of their own.
Immediately a specially dedicated care team give supports such as counselling or treatment for substance abuse to the new tenants if that is an identified inhibitor.
With continued support tenants develop the skills and resilience needed to sustain and flourish in their life and new home.
It is a simple model and the central premise makes perfect sense. Give someone a home and you’ll give them security and a platform to build from. Then the issues surrounding why such a person became homeless in the first place and how to avoid future homelessness can be addressed through the care team. This eventually leads to the full independent living of the tenant in receipt of the home.
The statistics back up the theory of the Housing First Model. In 2008, Finland adopted the Housing First Model and has eliminated long-term homelessness there. In Utah, USA, the implementation of the Housing First Model resulted in a 72% reduction in the numbers classified as long-term homeless in its first 9 years. Today, long-term homelessness has been eradicated in Utah.
In 2011, a shift towards the Housing First Model to alleviate long term homelessness was published in the Programme for Government. Currently only 1% of the national homeless budget is allocated to the Housing First Model. It is imperative that the government allocates more funding towards the Housing First Model so that charities and local authorities can tackle Ireland’s homelessness crisis effectively.