Homeless body to add 'domestic violence' as reason for seeking emergency accommodation

Homeless body to add 'domestic violence' as reason for seeking emergency accommodation

A member of staff takes a call at the Dublin Region Homeless Executive freephone service. Picture: Moya Nolan

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE), the country's lead authority for registering homelessness, is aiming to categorise those who cite domestic violence as the reason for seeking emergency accommodation within the next month.

The DRHE said it had almost completed its review of the National Pathway Accommodation and Support System (Pass) — the online system used by every homeless service provider and all local authorities — opening the way for more precise data.

It comes after Freedom of Information (FoI) requests issued to all local authorities by the Irish Examiner found that most councils do not have domestic violence as a category. Many local authorities said they do not collate those figures and said Tusla was responsible.

Council data

However, six local authorities did provide data. The information provided by Tipperary County Council, Kildare County Council, Cavan County Council, Kilkenny County Council, Leitrim County Council, and Roscommon County Council showed at least 70 people said they had been made homeless last year as a result of domestic violence. That figure does not include three alleged perpetrators of domestic violence in Co Tipperary, and 13 children attached to 11 households in Co Roscommon.

The same six local authorities said at least another 64 people had cited domestic violence as a reason for becoming homeless in 2019 and 2020, albeit some authorities did not have complete records for both of those years. 

The figure does not include another 14 children attached to households in Co Roscommon who sought emergency accommodation citing domestic violence, nor does it include the category of 'family breakdown'. 

Galway City Council had 118 single people and 37 families cite family breakdown as a reason for becoming homeless from 2019-2022, inclusive, and Tipperary County Council had 95 people refer to 'family breakdown' as the reason they sought emergency accommodation.

Some local authorities have yet to respond to the FoI request and others said the records did not exist. 

Cork County Council said it would cost an estimated €2,675 to process the FOI request as it would require manually checking hundreds of paper and electronic records of homeless presentations, and checking another 458 records stored on the Pass.

Others, including Mayo County Council, said the national homeless database, Pass V2, does not have the facility to record the specific reason for presentation as domestic violence/abuse, although 'relationship breakdown' is categorised.

That may now change as a spokesperson for the DRHE, which operates Pass on behalf of the Department of Housing and receives data from all local authorities, expects new categorisations, including that for domestic violence, to go live within the next month. It would be open to all local authorities to then follow suit.

Review

A DRHE spokesperson said: "The DRHE in collaboration with the Dublin local authorities are in the process of reviewing the 'reasons for homelessness' that are captured at assessment on presentation to homeless services. This is to ensure that the reasons captured reflect the full range of circumstances that can cause a household to present as homeless."

Miriam Kivelhan of Safe Ireland said the data from the local authorities showed there was not a standardised approach and that "it seems there is an element of local discretion".

"There cannot be postcode lotteries," Ms Kivlehan said, adding that she welcomed the move by DRHE and Safe Ireland hoped other local authorities would follow suit.

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