Families and Service Providers both call for more ‘human touch’ in homeless services. The human stories of homelessness, and the human touch needed to better support people, have been documented in a novel ‘photovoice’ project launched recently by Minister Katherine Zappone. The report Many Voices, No Homes – Voices from the Front line of Homelessness includes detailed personal accounts, together with photographs, of lived experiences of homelessness from children, adults, service providers and front line staff. The report is complemented by a parallel photo exhibition event taking place at South Dublin County Council Libraries in Tallaght and Clondalkin.

The report and photo exhibit 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. The report was commissioned by the South Dublin Children and Young Peoples Services Committee (CYPSC) and supported by the Tallaght based Childhood Development Initiative (CDI). It includes detailed accounts from 19 participants in South Dublin County.

CYPSC member and CDI CEO Marian Quinn said an interesting 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.” The photovoice project was developed by Sociologist and UCD Research Fellow and Dr. Maria Quinlan together with photographer and visual artist Patrick Bolger.

The photo exhibition has been on display in Tallaght library for the past two weeks and will be on display in Clondalkin library for a short period. The launch was also attended by the Mayor of South Dublin County Council, Cllr. Mark Ward. Speaking at the event Mayor Ward said: “The issues raised in this exhibition relate to families across the city and country – they are not unique to South Dublin” “The exhibition clearly outlines the lived experience of families who find themselves homeless, and the impact on their mental health, relationships, and children’s development.” “The stories in this report are hard to read; and so they should be. They offer a powerful glimpse into the heartache, drudgery and stress that comes with being homeless, and also illustrate the enormous efforts parents go to in an effort to ensure that their children continue to attend school, have space and time to play, and are protected from the worst effects of homelessness” “I have welcomed homeless families to use my office and phone as a base as they have tried to find accommodation in hotels. I have watched the hope of the children disappearing with every phone call. There is no room in the inn. It is heart-breaking to see” “In 2016 to 2017 I experienced homelessness. For 6 months I stayed in hostels, sofa surfed and I was even one of the people who stayed in Apollo House as part of the Home Sweet Home Campaign. I know the challenges that are faced. I know how difficult it is to maintain relationships with your children’s when you have nowhere to go with them. I know how difficult it is to try shield and protect your children in this environment” “As far as I know I am the only public representative to experience homelessness while holding office. The challenges I faced on a daily basis had a big impact on my mental health. I went from viewing after viewing to try and secure a place through homeless HAP. This process took me about a year before I was successful” “I went public about my journey when I was elected as Mayor. I felt that I could use my position to help break the stigma associated with homelessness”

To view the full report go to www.cdi.ie