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What is Homelessness
The Housing Act 1988 defines a homeless person as somebody who has no reasonable accommodation to live in or lives in a hospital, institution or night shelter because of a lack of home.
Human Dignity Issue
Shelter is a basic human need, yet throughout the word there a people looking for a place to live with dignity. Being homeless is more than just not having a roof over your head – it usually means that a person’s security and belongings needs are also not met. You can become homeless for many different reasons. These could include:
* Being evicted
* Losing your job
* Health problems
* A disaster such as fire or flooding
In 2009 there were up to 4,000 people reported to be homeless. 800 of them were children and two hundred of these children were under the age of 12.
Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, designed a pyramid to explain the basic needs required to protect human dignity. In this pyramid he not only names shelter as a basic human need but also names the need for security. Security needs include the need to be safe and protected when if homeless, is broken. To protect human dignity the local authorities have to take action.
Duties of Local Authorities towards Homeless People
While the 1988 Act does not impose a duty on housing authorities to provide housing to people who are homeless, it does clearly give responsibility to the local authorities to consider the needs of homeless people and expands their powers to respond to those needs. For example authorities may house homeless people from their own housing stock or through arrangement with a voluntary body. (Simon Community, St Vincent de Paul) The Act also enables the local authority to provide a homeless person with money to source accommodation in a non -governmental institution. In addition to the provisions relating to direct responses to people presenting as homeless, Section 10 of The Act enables local authorities to provide funding to voluntary bodies for the provision of emergency accommodation and long term housing for people who are homeless.
The 1988 Act requires that local authorities carry out recurrent assessments of the number of people who are homeless in their administrative area, as part of their housing needs assessment. The Health Service Executive (HSE) has responsibility for the health and in-house care needs of homeless people. In terms of funding, this means that local authorities are responsible for the costs of providing accommodation while the HSE Areas will provide funding for homeless persons’ care and welfare needs, including in-house care.
Making a Difference
There are many charities and voluntary organisations towards homeless people in Ireland such as:
* Simon Community
* The Salvation Army
* St Vincent de Paul
* Sonas Housing
* The Peter McVerry Trust
One of the biggest in known charities is Focus Ireland. Focus Ireland is a non-profitable organisation made specifically to help homeless people.
Ireland, though a relatively modern country has many people, even children ‘sleep rough’ every night and it is our responsibility to help them.