Young care leavers having to sleep in graveyards or cars due to housing crisis

Young care leavers having to sleep in graveyards or cars due to housing crisis

Many young care leavers are sleeping rough, in cars, couch surfing or accessing homeless accommodation according to EPIC. Picture: Leah Farrell/

Young people who have left care are having to sleep in their cars, couch surf, access homeless accommodation, and even sleep in a graveyard, according the advocacy agency EPIC.

Empowering People In Care (EPIC) said it is currently aware of at least 22 young people who are mostly in receipt of aftercare supports but who are still struggling to find a stable place to live.

Caroline Reid, EPIC's communications manager said the situation again highlights the need for care leavers — many of whom have experienced trauma and difficulty growing up — to receive some sort of priority when it comes to accessing services, including accommodation from local authorities.

She said some of those currently experiencing acute housing difficulties are studying, working, or both.

She said of those EPIC is assisting: "They are young people who are probably among the most vulnerable, yet they have that capacity and determination in trying to find a solution — there could be an equal number of young people out there who do not have that capacity to advocate for themselves."

EPIC CEO, Marissa Ryan, recently tweeted about two young care leavers now accessing homeless services. 

It is understood one is a young man who initially arrived in Ireland as an unaccompanied minor and is currently studying. Despite efforts to engage with a local authority on accommodation he has found himself in a hostel.

The other is a young man who, while previously in the care of Tusla at a younger age, did not meet the criteria for aftercare. One aspect of eligibility for aftercare is that a child has spent 12 months in the care of the State in the five years between the ages of 13-18. It's believed he is currently staying at a communal hostel in the southern region.

Caroline Reid said EPIC is aware of many other young people at various stages of trying to access accommodation, including many who are in receipt of the aftercare allowance.

Ms Reid said one young person had slept in a graveyard with her boyfriend for a time, while a young man slept in his car until his girlfriend's family allowed him to move in. She said others can end up couch surfing to avoid going into homeless services. 

"They feel like they are damaging friendships and relationships," she said.

Crisis in winter

Edel Weldon, advocacy officer with EPIC, said Tusla had instituted some very progressive policies on aftercare but that the housing stock simply wasn't available. 

She said since January most referrals to the advocacy service were about accommodation.

"I am worried about winter. We are in middle of a crisis in summer and we always know the crisis comes in winter," she said.

Ms Weldon said ideally care would not end at 18 but rather at 21, and that there was a clear need for transitional housing for care leavers.

Recently the Minister for Housing, Darragh O'Brien, in a reply to a parliamentary question said his department is currently preparing a dedicated Youth Homelessness Strategy, while his Government counterpart, Minister for Children Roderic O'Gorman, earlier this year announced a longitudinal study into the outcomes of those who have been through the care system.

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