There is not enough housing in Kildare to cope with the needs of the victims of domestic violence.
A raft of politicians are pushing for Kildare County Council to work with domestic violence service providers to develop a system for the allocation of a number of specific units throughout the county.
The 13 councillors from numerous parties said these would be used as transitional accommodation units for “families seeking to flee domestic abuse situations”.
They want housing policy to be amended to take into account the “exceptional needs” of applicants seeking accommodation from refuge centres.
Cllr Ciara Galvin told a KCC meeting on December 21 that there is a lack of rental accommodation for these victims and Cllr Peggy O’Dwyer said finding a solution would require KCC to “think outside the box.”
Cllr Ciara Galvin said people cannot stay in emergency accommodation forever.
“We need step down accommodation and some of our housing stock would be dedicated to this,” she added.
Cllr Peter Hamilton said there should be a support system in place with other agencies.
Five years ago, reported KCC official Annette Aspell, the Department of Housing issued guidance to all local authorities covering the issue.
She said that housing authorities play an important role for victims in relation to emergency accommodation needs but also in presenting homelessness by addressing long term accommodation needs.
However, this is mainly limited to assisting households that qualify for social housing support and ensuring that those eligible for supports are appropriately assessed.
The meeting also heard that funding is available to approved housing bodies to meet the needs of victims and these plans must be done with Tusla (the Child and Family Agency) which must confirm that support services have been provided for.
A report adopted by three local authorities, including Kildare, showed that domestic violence is one of primary factors contributing to homelessness in that county.
Ms Aspell said that there is a focus on prevention — to prevent an emergency accommodation placement in the first place.
When a victim contacts KCC, the best practice is to refer to a specialist domestic violence service so that care needs can be addressed.
Victims may also have other needs such as medical assistance.
Bed and breakfasts and hotels are considered where victims cannot return to the home because of violence and this is done without assessing eligibility for social housing supports.
If long term housing is needed a social housing assessment is required.
While the council may not have unused accommodation on standby for newly qualified households, other support payments are provided and can be used for private rented accommodation.
Ms Aspell said that Teach Tearmainn, which provides support including emergency accommodation locally, have highlighted the need for a step down accommodation and their preference is to provide it themselves. She said Tusla should be engaged also because they will provide funding through the HSE.
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