Housing First works in Derry and could work down south: DePaul

editorial image

DePaul Ireland Chief Executive, Kerry Anthony, has said a model that has helped rough sleepers in Derry get off the streets and permanently into homes could ameliorate the homeless crisis in the South.

Ms. Anthony said the charity’s ‘Housing First’ approach that provides permanent housing to rough sleepers or homeless people with complex needs and then backs that up with a full suite of supports was working in Derry and Belfast.

“We deliver the Housing First programme in NI. Between 2015 and 2017, we helped 87 people into permanent accommodation - people who historically had very complex addiction issues and experiences of rough sleeping.

“In Belfast, 78 per cent of those people sustained a tenancy for more than two years. In Derry the figure was 72 per cent after 12 months.

“With the right supports, the Housing First approach can help to take people from the streets directly into housing,” she said.

The Housing First model first emerged in the US around 25 years ago and was focused on providing permanent homes to people suffering from addiction or mental health problems who had hitherto been considered “chronically homeless.”

The idea is to provide people with a stable home and then support their needs rather than shuttle them between temporary and emergency accommodation options while they get help for a range of underlying conditions. DePaul has said it aims to “assess, place and support people who are homeless with complex needs into permanent housing from a range of temporary accommodation sources”.

“Once they find a new home, the Housing First team works to coordinate appropriate supports around the individual so that they can remain in their own home,” it states.

Ms. Anthony said the model could equally be applied to the South where the charity has just launched its ‘Real Doors of Dublin’ campaign using an icon of the Irish tourism industry, Dublin’s Georgian doors. Bloom, a creative agency, has recreated Bob Fearon’s famous 1970 collage of the doors of Dublin’s Merrion Square and Fitzwilliam Square and placed rough sleepers on each threshold to highlight the rough sleeping crisis in the capital.

“It’s really important that we continue to keep the focus on homelessness and don’t just accept that rough sleeping is part of Irish society. We must continue to shine a light on this issue and to advocate for housing and end to one night only beds, so we can get people into more stable long-term accommodation,” she said.