“My mam passed away while I was in prison and I was not allowed out for the funeral…My brother died through a drowning accident when I was younger…My partner committed suicide…Seven of my close friends have died from overdoses…I’ve been to two treatment centres…I feel circumstances dictate your life…”
Homelessness is a complex issue. There is no one cause, and no one solution. People become homeless for a whole range of complex and overlapping reasons.
Homelessness is most often associated with rough sleeping – the most extreme form of homelessness. But the term ‘homeless’ also applies to people living in temporary shelters or institutions because they are houseless; to people living in insecure housing who may be threatened with severe exclusion due to insecure tenancies, eviction, domestic violence; and to people living in inadequate housing, including overcrowding, with friends, etc.
People become homeless for a variety of different reasons. For many, homelessness is the result of a brief crisis in their lives. With the right supports they can be assisted out of homelessness quickly, rapidly accessing alternative housing.
“Before I became homeless I had a girlfriend and a job. It is when I had to leave her house. When we broke up, she threw me out. It is when I had to leave her house. That is when I became homeless.” – ‘Rolf’
For some people, however, homelessness is the result of a culmination of multiple crises over a long period. People become overwhelmed by a series of personal crises and problems, many of which can be outside of their control. They build up over time – sometimes years, until that final crisis moment that triggers homelessness. Their pathway into homelessness can be long, complex and difficult, and cannot be addressed by housing alone. Such people may find themselves homeless over the long-term, or suffer repeat experiences of homelessness over several years.
Many of this group of people are often deeply disadvantaged and isolated from a young age. They’ve been failed by family, society, the education system, the economy, the health system; they’ve been unable to cope with bereavement , rejection, relationship breakdown, job loss, poor mental health, and much more.
“I went to a house for homeless girls. I was there a long, long time. I’ve been a psychiatric patient for 15 years. I had a nervous breakdown in my twenties. I was kept in a psychiatric hospital for two years without getting out. I’ve been institutionalised all my life. I wouldn’t know what it is like to live independently on my own. I dunno what it’s like to live out in the real world. Drink is the downfall of my life. Drink and me don’t suit at all. It’s ‘cos I’m on medication every day. With the influence of the vodka I can go off the handle.” – ‘Paula’
In 2013 we published a research paper, How Did I Get Here?, which explored the pathways into homelessness among people staying at our Emergency Shelter over a five week period. The report highlights the deep social exclusion and disadvantage that people experience on their journey in to homelessness, and the many challenges that they must overcome in their journey out. Many of the issues highlighted in the report are often referred to as complex needs – the combination of problems, barriers and exclusions that people have to deal with and overcome.
We followed up that report with the publication of Where Are They Now? in 2014. That report, reviews the housing status twelve months later of that same group of people , attempts to identify the supports that helped people to move out of homelessness and the barriers that are preventing people still stuck in emergency accommodation.
“My fiancé died in November. He was great guy and I thought everything was working out. We were together for 4 years. We were going for a house together. Me and my fiancé, the father of my child, going for a house together. Things were good. Then he over-dosed on heroin. He was just messing around on it. I never knew he ever took it. It was like being hit by a train.” – ‘Sinead’
A follow-up paper to our ‘How Did I Get Here?’ report exploring the housing status of the same group of people twelve months later.
A report exploring the sometimes lengthy journeys into homelessness for people staying for long periods of time in our emergency shelter.