Unique project highlights the human stories of homelessness

By Mary Dennehy

THE human stories of homelessness, and the human touch needed to better support people, have been documented in a unique project – which details accounts of 19 participants from South Dublin County.

The report Many Hearts, No Homes – Voices from the Frontline of Homelessness includes personal accounts of lived experiences of homelessness from children, adults, service providers and frontline staff.

P21 Many HeartsNo Homes

Commissioned by the South Dublin Children and Young People’s Services Committee (CYPSC), and supported by Tallaght-based Childhood Development Initiative (CDI), the report, which is being complemented by a photo exhibition, highlights the need for more personalised engagement with families.

According to findings, the report and exhibition highlight a ‘clear wish from those affected and front line staff for interactions and services to be more personalised with greater skills and capacity to engage each families’ unique set of needs and solutions’.

Maria Quinlan, CYPSC member and CDI CEO Marian Quinn said that an interested and unexpected finding was the insights gathered from service providers and frontline staff.

“The extent to which their experiences and responses mirrors that of homeless families – in terms of frustration, hopelessness and feeling disempowered – is striking.”

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The report includes ‘human touch’ recommendation including, staff in housing services being supported with specialised training in dealing with vulnerable, distressed groups who are potentially suffering from trauma.

It has also been recommended that extra support is developed for staff to assist families from the migrant community including cultural awareness and language/translation skills.

Overall, less reliance on phone interactions and more face-to-face engagement between families, service providers and front line staff has been called for.

The report also sets out the practical things that families said are most important to better their experiences.

These include, access to cooking and laundry facilities, assistance with securing rented accommodation, appropriate emergency accommodation services and support with navigating the housing system.

School transportation for children was also raised.

The photo and voice project was developed by Sociologist and UCD Research Fellow Dr Maria Quinlan with photographer and visual artist Patrick Bolger.

According to Dr Quinlan, the aim of the project was to “allow the voices of the experts in this field – those experiencing homelessness and those working alongside them – to comprehensively have their say both verbally and visually.

“While the focus of the project is to identify recommendations, in many cases we know these but they are not being implemented”, Dr Quinlan said.

“However, this project gives insight into how these can be implemented in a way that addresses the lived day-to-day challenges.”

The exhibition has been on display in Tallaght Library for the past fortnight and is moving to Clondalkin Library for the coming two weeks.

To read the full report, which was officially launched this week by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone TD, visit www.cdi.ie

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