Homeless crisis hits middle class in Limerick

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Homeless-teenA CHARITY working with Limerick’s homeless people has been forced to place nine families in bed and breakfast accommodation since the beginning of the year because of lack of suitable housing.

And the Novas Initiatives charity say they are now dealing with a cluster of middle-class families whose homes have been repossessed by financial institutions.

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Two homeless families were moved to B&B in the city during the past week as Novas Initiatives warned that urgent action is needed to alleviate immediate pressure on homeless families in Limerick.

The charity’s Intensive Family Support (IFS) and out of hours services have been inundated with calls for help from families at risk of homelessness since the start of 2014.

“These most recent families included eight children in total, and the accommodation provided is wholly unsuitable for a young family, trying to prepare lunches and get children out to school,” said Sinead O’Donoghue, manager of the IFS service.

In addition to families in B&B accommodation, the service is currently working with a further eight families and three pregnant women deemed to be ‘hidden homeless’.

“While they are not sleeping on the streets or in designated homeless accommodation, they are forced to ‘sofa surf’ in the homes of family and friends. This is entirely unsuitable for families, with many young children unable to go to bed until late at night as they are sleeping in the living room of somebody else’s home.

It’s an unstable arrangement that can escalate and break down very quickly with the family becoming immediately homeless,” Ms O’Donoghue explained.

While the IFS work with many families who have a history of poverty or homelessness, they are now dealing with a cluster of middle-class, formerly middle-income families who are presenting to the service.

They work intensely with these families to secure suitable accommodation, but with social housing waiting lists at an all-time high, they claim they are entirely dependent on the private rented market.

“There is a lack of permanent housing and an absence of temporary homeless accommodation for families in the city. There is also no service in Limerick that permits a father or male children over 16 years to reside with the family unit. This is having a devastating impact on families who already find themselves homeless and are then forced to split up,” Ms O’Donoghue said.

While the IFS provides two temporary flats for families in crisis as well as a home for life, it is not enough to meet demand while securing long-term accommodation. The Mungret Street-based service also provide three small units of emergency housing for homeless families. This accommodation is provided on a temporary basis, until more suitable dwellings can be secured.

Novas’ IFS also owns and manages a ‘home for life’ for a family in the Clare Street area. This operates with much success and currently houses a family that had been presenting to homeless service for more than a decade.

Anne Cronin, Novas’ Head of Homeless services welcomed Minister Jan O’Sullivan’s recent response to the homeless crisis but warned that immediate action must be taken to alleviate the immense stress experienced by families.

“Already this year we have had to place a single father and his young children in B&B accommodation for two weeks after the family home was repossessed, this will become a more common feature in the coming months,” she said.