Women Experiencing Homelessness: an Invisible Reality

by | Dec 18, 2022 | News

From the Famvin Homeless Alliance.

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Anyone can suddenly end up with no place to call home, but homelessness doesn’t affect everyone in the same way, with the experience of women completely different to the experience of men. (CYREANS, 2021). Whilst men are more likely to sleep rough or to make use of hostels and night shelters (CYREANS, 2021), women are more likely to experience ‘invisible’ forms of homelessness: staying with friends and family or entering relationships in exchange for accommodation. (NWCI,2018).

Due to its invisible and non-traditional nature, recording the real number of women experiencing homelessness is very difficult, especially as the current ways of monitoring levels of homelessness uses a limited data set such as only certain types of services being included, and timeframe (usually once a year.).[i]

According to the latest report (August 2022) from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage in Ireland,[ii] women across the country now account for 36% of the adult homeless population (7585 people). These figures only consider the numbers of adults accessing emergency accommodation during a specific count week, typically the last full week of the month. The numbers do not include the many women and children living in domestic violence refuges or residing in direct provision centres and the issue is therefore underestimated. (NWCI,2018).

The report also shows that more than half of families living in emergency accommodation are single parents and its increase, according to Focus Ireland[iii], is primarily due to the loss of private rented accommodation.

Depaul Ireland is currently supporting 1209 women in homelessness across Ireland and Northern Ireland to respond to this emergency. Suzie is just one of the women Depaul has supported into their own home in 2021 as part of the 13 Houses Campaign: with nowhere to go, she found the right help to exit the cycle of homelessness. Her story is shared below.

Suzie’s story

Please note: To protect the privacy of the people we care for, names are changed and faces are represented by stock photos. Thank you for understanding.

Suzie, 42, lost her home in 2017. After spending 4 years homeless, she came to Depaul’s Blessington Street homeless service. Here she got the help she needed to get back on her feet. Through the help she received at Depaul she now lives in her own apartment.

Here she tells her story in her own words,

I was living in my family home for 13 years. I had reared my two kids there – my son and daughter. Then the landlord said he was selling.

I was shocked. I didn’t have a clue where to go…

We had made all our family memories there. That’s where my children went to school. When we started to pack up everything, it was awful, there was so much I had to leave behind…

I was devastated.

I was staying on friends’ settees and I was in B&Bs. I was jumping from here to there. I spent 4 years not knowing where home was. And I was alone. My children couldn’t come to visit any more.

The Right Help at the Right Time

And when I arrived in Blessington Street in Dublin, the help I got was just unbelievable… I’ll never meet a nicer group of people.

And it wasn’t just a roof over my head. It was all I needed to get back on my feet.

I had to pay rent and budget every week, and I loved that. It prepared you for when you move out and get your own place. Then you’re ready for it.

Now through Depaul Housing, I have a long-term lease for my own home and I’m so happy.

And I haven’t just been left here. The people in Depaul really care.

When the caseworker in Depaul rings up to ask how you are, to check if everything is alright… I really love that. You’re not just thrown in here, they help you budget your money and check if you’re up to date with electricity bills and everything. They’re kind about it. It’s a great feeling. I say to myself, I’ve done all this. I’m on the right track.

I’m back where I had my family. This is where I came from and I’m back now. It’s making it so much easier for me. It really helps to be around people I know.

 Thank You

And I say, if I can survive what I’ve been through, then I can survive anything. That’s the way I look at it. I’ve got a place now where my son and my daughter can come and visit.

To the people who make the work of Depaul possible, I’d like to thank you very much. I really, really would like to thank you very much for what you’ve done for me.

Blessington Street is part of the 13 Houses Campaign, a service opened in 2015 as a Cold Weather Initiative to give a humanitarian response to homelessness during the coldest months of the year. The service provides 16 emergency beds each night. In addition, evening meals, breakfast and access to shower facilities are provided all year round. When people come to Depaul they are linked with a designated keyworker who will work through plan to support their move to independent living where possible.  

To support women in homelessness like Suzie, please donate to Depaul today.

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[i] https://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/housing/losing_your_home/homelessness.html#l54a65

[ii] https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/085b6-homeless-report-august-2022/

[iii] https://www.focusireland.ie/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Stanley-and-Allen-2018-Insights-into-Family-Homelessness-No-13-Family-Homelessness-End-of-Year-Review-2017.pdf

Source: https://vfhomelessalliance.org/