‘A Place to Call Home’ – How Your Donations Have Helped
The Irish Refugee Council’s Housing Officer outlines her role which is part–funded through donations to the Dublin & Glendalough appeal.
‘A Place to Call Home’, the diocesan appeal which supports the work of the Irish Refugee Council, is nearing the end of its three year term. So far individuals and parishes in Dublin & Glendalough have raised almost €190,000 to help resource the IRC’s crucial work in providing transitional supports for people moving on from the Direct Provision system. A number of parishes have pledged their support during the Harvest and Advent seasons.
People can face significant barriers when moving out of Direct Provision and into the private rented sector. The IRC housing programme assists people in overcoming these barriers by providing support and accommodation. Properties have been donated to them by religious congregations, civil society and members of the public. These are then subleased to individuals and families providing them with a secure and affordable tenancy for a guaranteed period of time.
Apart from helping to put a roof over people’s heads, the IRC programme provides integration supports including language, education and employment. All of this combines to give people a better basis for moving independently into the private rental market.
Money donated from Dublin & Glendalough’s appeal has a huge impact on the IRC’s programme. Their Housing Officer is part funded by the dioceses. The appeal funds the role for two days a week with the remaining three days’ funding coming from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.
“Without the Church of Ireland I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing”
Aoife Coleman joined the Irish Refugee Council in January 2018 as Housing Officer having previously interned in the Drop in Centre. She is very grateful for the support the dioceses have given. “Two days of my funding comes from the Church of Ireland. I wouldn’t be doing half of what I do without it,” she says.
Aoife assists with the housing project and works on housing related issues with people trying to transition out of Direct Provision or living in the community. The IRC runs a drop–in centre and many of the queries there are housing and homelessness related.
“We help people who are housed in the properties that have been donated or assist them in getting into the private rented market or we advocate to get them into homeless accommodation,” she explains. “More and more individuals and families [who have given refugee status and can leave Direct Provision] are ending up in the homeless system. Many are accommodated in the night by night ‘free phone’ homeless accommodation system. We advocate to get them into more stable homeless accommodation. Things are changing a lot because the system is getting worse and is under more pressure so we have to keep up with the case work. We also link in with organisations like Crosscare and De Paul.”
Aoife says her work varies but on any one day she could be in contact with 18 to 20 people through phonecalls, emails and via the drop in centre. Many people will come back for further support, for example if they have been helped to find accommodation but their families are joining them through the family reunification programme and that accommodation is no longer suitable.
The private rented market is under huge pressure at the moment and across the board those searching for accommodation face difficulties. Many people who have exited Direct Provision will be in receipt of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and there is stigma attached to this as many landlords do not wish to accept HAP for a variety of reasons. But these are issues that face everyone searching for a home to rent.
People emerging from direct provision experience stigma trying to find a home to rent
People emerging from Direct Provision experience a range of other hurdles. “People experience racism trying to get into private rented accommodation. I’m currently working with a Russian woman who is white and blonde but people with different accents experience difficulties. Then people coming out of Direct Provision have no landlord references or work references and we provide character references. The landlord just wants a perfect tenant,” Aoife says.
She helps people to get onto the housing list, drafts messages for Daft (the property website) and importantly gives people the tools to negotiate the system themselves.
While the role can be stressful there are hugely positive aspects. “I love interaction and working with people and seeing how, by giving people the information, they can better their own circumstances – setting people on the right path. And it’s great when you have a positive outcome and people can move on,” Aoife comments.
The IRC is a wonderful place to work with a great team, she adds noting that there are difficulties with funding. But their work is hugely important in challenging structures which are often set up for people to fail and in breaking new ground for people who come to Ireland seeking sanctuary. In the area of education, the IRC has done great work in securing university scholarships for people in Direct Provision and the law centre has a very high success rate in helping people to prepare their cases.
Apart from providing funding, Aoife urges people who know of rooms or properties to rent in their communities to get in touch as the IRC may be able to recommend a tenant.
Since the IRC began their housing pilot 71 people have been directly accommodated in donated properties, 41 children have new homes, 37 people have been assisted in moving out of Direct Provision into rented accommodation and 20 people have been assisted out of homeless shelters and into secure accommodation.
To donate to the appeal monies can be forwarded by cheque to: the United Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough, Church House, Church Avenue, Rathmines, Dublin 6 (marked Housing Appeal). Donations can also be lodged directly to: DIOCESAN FUNDS OF DUBLIN AND GLENDALOUGH, Bank of Ireland, College Green, Dublin 2, BIC: BOFIIE2D, IBAN: IE50 BOFI 9000 1769 3548 78, Reference: Housing appeal.
This video gives more details of the IRC project and highlights the benefits:
This article was first published in the Church Review. Learn how to subscribe here.