New report highlights double trauma of homelessness and domestic abuse

According to Focus Ireland, there is a lack of protective systems for families facing domestic violence,
New report highlights double trauma of homelessness and domestic abuse

Kenneth Fox

A new report from Focus Ireland details how the growing surge in homelessness and domestic violence are often intrinsically linked.

The homeless charity said the report shows Covid-19's dramatic impact on domestic violence with service providers describing surges in the number of families contacting their services.

Focus Ireland say there is a lack of protective systems for families facing domestic violence, and when they flee the violence they face numerous barriers in accessing services including frequent changes in short-term accommodation while they seek a safe place for themselves and their children (average 4.5 moves),

The Focus Ireland study which is co-authored by Dr Paula Mayock and Fiona Neary, emerged from growing concerns in the charity’s family services about the level of domestic violence when staff were helping service users and hearing their traumatic experiences.

The report is published as the Department of Justice prepares the final stages of the Third National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, and contains a number of recommendations about how services can be better co-ordinated to reduce trauma and the risk of homelessness.

They said there is a well-documented association between women’s homelessness and domestic violence and since the start of the pandemic Women’s Aid stated there was a 43 per cent increase in contact with their services in 2020 compared to 2019.

Domestic incidents

In addition, Gardaí have also received 43,500 calls to respond to domestic abuse incidents in 2020, a 17 per cent increase on the previous year, according to their recent annual report.

The study showed that for all participants, at the point of leaving an abusive relationship, protective systems were mostly absent, leaving parents to cope independently in the absence of adequate financial means to find a solution to their homelessness.

The research also revealed that many parents who took part in the study stayed with a family member or a friend after they first left home due to domestic abuse.

As a result, a substantial number entered situations of hidden homelessness, meaning that their domestic abuse remained concealed for many weeks and, in some cases, for several months.

Focus Ireland director of Advocacy, Communications and Research Mike Allen said: “The report is published at a vital moment, as the Department of Justice and its partners are in the final stages of preparing the Third National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence.

"When the first strategy was published in 2010 there were around 150 families who are homeless, while today, despite the welcome decline since the pandemic, there are over 800.

"One part of the context for the third strategy must be the Government’s commitment to work towards ending homelessness entirely by 2030. In that light, the Third strategy needs to go much further in closing off pathways from domestic violence into homelessness."

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