New Study on Youth Homelessness Launched by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs
Posted on: 22 December 2008
A study conducted in Dublin city, documenting the paths followed by 40 homeless young people, was launched by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Barry Andrews, at Trinity College Dublin on December 18th last.
The study, entitled Young People’s Homeless Pathways, is authored by Dr Paula Mayock, Mary Louise Corr and Dr. Eoin O’Sullivan of TCD’s School of Social Work and Social Policy and Children’s Research Centre.
Having tracked 40 young people over a four-year period since 2004, a unique feature of the research is its longitudinal focus. This approach was taken in an attempt to document and explain young homeless people’s housing and life transitions over time, with the specific aim of identifying the pathways followed by young people subsequent to becoming homeless. The research was conducted in two waves – the first between September 2004 and January 2005 (Phase I) and the second between September 2005 and August 2006 (Phase II). 40 young people were recruited at the outset of the study and, at the time of follow-up in 2005/06, information was successfully obtained about the living situations of 37 of the study’s 40 participants.
Commenting on the significance of the study Dr Paula Mayock stated: “The findings of this study indicate that young people can exit homelessness, sometimes relatively quickly, and achieve greater stability in their lives. However, over 45% of the study participants remained homeless and struggled to find and maintain secure accommodation. These young people almost always embarked on a cycle of movement between hostels, the street, and other unstable living situations after becoming homeless. Their situations invariably worsened on reaching the age of 18 years due to the sudden withdrawal of statutory child welfare services. This strongly suggests that the current organisation of homeless services, which necessitates the transfer from child welfare to adult service at age 18, acts to perpetuate homelessness and reduce the likelihood of young people finding a secure place of residence”.
The study has uncovered three routes or pathways taken by young people following their first homeless experience. The identification of these pathways directs attention to experiences and interventions that can work to facilitate their exit from homelessness or, alternatively, serve to prolong their homelessness. The three pathways identified share a general trend in young people’s movement either out of homelessness (Pathways 1 & 2) or towards more chronic homeless states (Pathway 3):
Pathway 1: Independent Exits from Homelessness (that is, moving home or to the private rented sector).
Just over 20% of the study’s young people.
Pathway 2: Dependent Exits from Homelessness (that is, moving to transitional housing or to State care).
One-third (33%) of the study’s young people.
Pathway 3: Continued Homelessness (this sub-group continued to live on the street, in adult hostels or in places of detention).
Just over 45% of the study’s young people.
For the first time in an Irish context, this longitudinal study provides detailed information about the dynamic routes or ‘journeys’ embarked upon by young people who experienced homelessness as teenagers. Those who successfully exited homelessness often benefited from family and/or professional supports and they also demonstrated very considerable strength and determination in their efforts to transform their lives. However, access to appropriate, secure and affordable housing was the main facilitator to their move out of homelessness. Those young people who remained homeless lacked supportive relationships and they did not have access to appropriate housing. All continued to alternate between living in hostels, the street and other unstable living situations. The challenges they confronted in accessing affordable housing were very often exacerbated by drug dependence and/or periods of incarceration. It is significant that most of these young people reported a pattern of repeated entry to Out of Hours Service hostels/residential settings targeting homeless young people under the age of 18 years.
The following facilitators to exiting homelessness were identified: access to appropriate affordable housing; lack of movement between unstable forms of accommodation; contact with family; adequate preparation for the move towards independent living (aftercare); establishing positive and enabling peer/social relationships; professional support from aftercare workers, social workers or other professionals; participation in education or skills training; access to drug treatment.
Barriers to exiting homelessness included: constant movement between multiple unstable accommodation types; continued use of Out of Hours Service accommodation and hostels targeting the under-18s; lack of access to secure, appropriate housing or a care placement; gaps in accommodation and service provision, particularly in services targeting 18-25 year olds; entry to adult hostels; time spent homeless; lack of education/skills training; incarceration; drug and/or alcohol dependence; mental health problems.
Young People’s Accounts of Exiting and Remaining Homeless
I suppose I have a relationship back with me family, we get on brilliant now and everything’s kind of, we can communicate, we can talk to each other…She’s [mum] learned to trust me and that’s the biggest thing, there’s a bit more trust in the family. Nobody trusted me before and now they do trust me which is great … What made a difference was getting off everything (drugs) … going into detox and then going into treatment and then doing the day programme. Just kind of getting me life back together, you know what I mean. I’ve grown up an awful lot in the last year, grown up a huge amount which was really needed – Anna, 19 years
I think when you go through the Out of Hours you can class yourself as homeless ‘cos you’re never guaranteed a bed you know that type of way. But now I have a home, this is my home. It mightn’t be my name over the door and I mightn’t be paying the mortgage or a lot of money for it but it’s my personal space and everything in it is mine. It’s my home, you know – Caroline, 17 years.
Things have changed definitely like. You can’t put a price on your own independence, living on your own. I know it’s not totally 100% independent with the staff but like I mean in a few months time, 5 or 6 months time hopefully I’ll be in approved rented accommodation and things will go well there – Seán, 22 years
I’ve been going round in circles for a long time probably since back then (time of initial interview) but it’s just hard. Like I was doing well for a while, I’d be doing well for a few weeks but then something would happen. I get setbacks, you know. Having nowhere to stay is the main thing. Staying here, I’m trying to get clean urine but as you know it’s, this hostel is for people who’s on drugs and I’m sharing a room with a fella and like. I’m trying to stay away from everything and he’s doing it in me face. It’s just there in me face. It’s just so, it’s just so hard – Eoin, 22 years.
Staying in under-18 hostels, well basically they’re great. Looking back at it now like the support there is great. Then when you go to adult hostels there’s no support there, you’re basically out there for yourself like you know. You’re just fucked basically. It’s a fuckin hole you’re in and it’s very hard to get out of you know. Takes a lot of shit to get you out of it you know – Christian, 19 years.
Young People’s Homeless Pathways is published by the Homeless Agency and is available to download from The Children’s Research Centre website: www.tcd.ie/childrensresearchcentre and from the Homeless Agency website: www.homelessagency.ie
Notes to Editor:
Phase I of the study was commissioned by the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and Phase II was joint-funded by the Homeless Agency and Health Service Executive.