Document Type

Report

Rights

This item is available under a Creative Commons License for non-commercial use only

Publication Details

This report is available on the website of the Homeless Agency

http://www.homelessagency.ie/

Abstract

Homelessness affects the lives of an increasing number of children in Dublin. Research by Focus Ireland indicated that 1,262 children were living with their parent(s) in Bed and Breakfast (B&B) emergency accommodation in 1999 (Houghton & Hickey, 2000). More recent figures from the Northern Area Health Board (NAHB) Homeless Service show that 20% of first time referrals to emergency accommodation in the past year were families with 827 children. Much of the available information on these children’s well-being comes from studies on the health care needs and access to health care services of families living in emergency accommodation (Smith, McGee, Shannon & Holohan, 2001; Focus Ireland, 2001). Little information, however, is known about how particular features of this accommodation, such as the uncertainty of everyday routines, overcrowding and regulations, impact on other aspects of children’s development. How does homelessness affect children’s social development? What are the effects on children’s day -to- day experiences in terms of routines and relationships within the family? Do children have possibilities for making and sustaining friendships and for developing contact with a wider community? How does being homeless impact on their education and school attendance? This study explores these questions using a qualitative approach, and draws on the perspectives of children, adolescents and parents living in emergency accommodation in Dublin. Findings from qualitative interviews with twenty families are presented and discussed. The present study set out to develop and build on themes explored in an earlier study involving ten families (Halpenny, Greene, Hogan, Smith & McGee, 2001). Interview guides follow very closely those questions in the initial study and cover information on everyday routines, children’s relationships with family and friends, emotional and cognitive development, and school attendance. The present study expands on this initial study by covering in more detail the impact of regulations within current emergency accommodation settings, children’s opportunities for play, and the implications for children’s personal possessions. Additional information is provided from interviews with professionals working with homeless families.

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