Integrated services needed to prevent homelessness crisis worsening - report

A report launched in Cork has found that integrated services such as rapid re-housing ‘Housing First’ services and physical and mental health supports are needed to prevent the homelessness crisis from getting worse.

The findings, released by the Simon Communities, further found there is a need for greater investment in social and affordable housing, and that lessons can be learned from other countries in developing effective homelessness prevention.

Preventing Homelessness: A Review of the International Evidence by Professor Nicholas Place of the University of York’s Centre for Housing Policy was launched at a conference in the Imperial Hotel.

Speakers at the conference included Hilary Melton, executive director of US group Pathways Vermont, Joe Finnerty, lecturer in Applied Social Studies, at UCC, and members of Cork Simon.

The review finds three “essentials” for effective homelessness prevention: it must be part of an integrated homelessness strategy; it should be both flexible and connected, adapting to peoples’ needs by working effectively with other services; and it requires a sufficient housing supply in order to work well.

An example of the services required to prevent homelessness is the “Housing First” model which is an approach aimed at providing both housing and treatment services for participants.

The report also counters arguments against homelessness prevention measures, such as the claim that these can be a ‘sticking plaster’ that leads to policymakers ignoring bigger problems causing homelessness, such as a lack of affordable housing or cuts to health services.

Cork Simon Centre.

“The international evidence strongly suggests that even where there is sufficient housing supply, people will still need assistance to avoid homelessness and to manage the risks and support needs that can trigger homelessness,” the report states.

It goes on to find that “prevention is used as part of an integrated homelessness strategy by countries that have achieved or are working towards a ‘functional zero’ in homelessness".

Paul Sheehan, national spokesperson for the Simon Communities in Ireland, said the report shows "there are clear and evidence-based solutions to prevent more people from being pushed into homelessness and adding to the current crisis".

“There are solutions that have been shown to work in other countries, and that are within our grasp. Most significantly, it’s clear that a supply of affordable and secure housing is critical to any long-term solution.

Currently, many people have nowhere to go if they cannot afford to rent, and this is one of the key reasons why there were 10,264 people in emergency accommodation as of February – the highest on record.

Our housing sector remains in crisis and is struggling to cope with demand,” he said.

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