‘Rebuilding Ireland’ is the Government’s comprehensive strategy for tackling the current housing and homeless crisis. While RBI contains many good and progressive commitments, it contains no recognition of the particular dynamics and risks of youth homelessness.
There is only one specific commitment to young people in RBI: Action 1.7, which commits to delivering accommodation for vulnerable young care leavers. Fulfillment of this will involve the “DHPCLG [making] arrangements under the Capital Assistance Scheme (CAS) to allow Approved Housing Bodies to acquire residential units to accommodate young people exiting State care. The independent living supports required will be provided through Tusla”.
Rebuilding Ireland also places some weight on the ‘Protocol on Young People Leaving State Care’, stating that it ‘has provided direction to local authorities on their requirement to engage with young people leaving care in relation to their housing need’. However, while this protocol clearly identified the housing needs of vulnerable care leavers, there was no ring-fenced housing to address their needs and they are not given priority allocation once assessed. There has been no published review or evaluation of the impact of the protocol.
The RBI commitment to support care leavers through funding AHB’s to provide accommodation is welcome but it will take time to deliver and, on current indications, does not appear to be on a sufficient scale. In the mean-time care leavers – as a particularly vulnerable group – continue to experience a particularly high level of homelessness.
RBI contains no other mention of young people as having any particular needs in relation to homelessness (or indeed housing in general). Young people will benefit from the success of RBI, along with everyone else, from increased supply of social and private rented housing, along with crisis measures such as a greater supply of emergency accommodation. In effect, if you did not have a history of care and are experiencing homelessness as a young adult, the only response is the general needs homeless services.
This ignores the range of barriers experienced by young people who are at risk of homelessness e.g. reduced social protection payments for certain young people, lower priority on social housing lists, accommodation in emergency accommodation along with older entrenched adults, etc. There are also more general factors such as landlord reluctance to take young tenants, the unwillingness of private developers to build affordable single bed accommodation. In particular there is no recognition of the vulnerability of young people in the process of maturing into independent adulthood.
Unless specifically addressed, these factors will serve to lock young people into homelessness, and they will be last in the queue for the private rented, local authority and AHB sectors, even when more adequate housing supplies becomes available.