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  • Northside West

Hotel life damaging homeless families

Tuesday, 25th June, 2019 8:00am
Hotel life damaging homeless families

PHOTO POSED

Hotel life damaging homeless families

PHOTO POSED

NEW research has highlighted the “seismic impact” hotel living has on the mental and physical health of homeless families forced into temporary accommodation. 

The research, published recently by the Royal Geographical Society, follows a year-long study of 16 formerly homeless families in Dublin.

The families – who became homeless following eviction from the private rental sector, family breakdown, or a combination of the two - were asked about how hotel living had impacted on their mental and physical health.

Each household had spent significant periods of time living in hotels across the city while awaiting permanent accommodation. 

They told how daily routines were disrupted as families were left unable to cook, do their laundry, or take children to school without expensive, time-consuming journeys across the city.

Not being able to cook in particular led to higher expenditures, health implications due to lack of nutrition, and reduced family social time.

According to the study, carried out by human geographers Dr Mel Nowicki (Oxford Brookes University), Professor Katherine Brickell (Royal Holloway, University of London) and Dr Ella Harris (Goldsmiths, University of London), the destructive impact on children was particularly acute.

One toddler’s speech hadn’t developed since moving into a hotel, despite her being over two years old and previously meeting development targets.

A behavioural specialist suggested this could be a consequence of the trauma of homelessness. Other examples of children’s stunted development included not learning to crawl or walk due to a lack of space.

One family said their son has to see an early intervention team, because he can’t climb or walk stairs and was a “kind of rigid” baby.

“They’re [the specialists] convinced now that it’s down to where we lived, because he hadn’t got access to move around, to crawl,” they said. “He never crawled…he had no space at all.”

The longest period a household in this study had lived in a hotel for was three years. In Dublin alone in 2018, there were 850 families legally classed as homeless, including 1,926 children, living in hotel accommodation.

Previous research has looked at experiences of homelessness, but the increasing intersection between homelessness and the hotel industry has been relatively under-researched.

The study pointed out that at busy, lucrative times of the year like St Patrick’s Day, Dublin hotels were asking homeless residents to leave as they could make more money through other paying guests.

“This research has really hammered home how terrifyingly easy it is to become homeless,” said Dr Nowicki. “Everyone I interviewed just experienced a few bits of bad luck, or lacked a strong family support network.

“Whilst councils can speak to hotels about improving staff attitude to homeless residents, the long term solution lies in investing in affordable social housing and most importantly regulating the private rented sector.

“Most people become homeless because of eviction, and tenants lack security.”

The issue of homeless households being housed temporarily in hotels is not unique to Dublin, and takes place across Ireland and also in the UK.

The research paper concludes by calling for more attention to be paid to how hotels, normally considered sites of rest, become sites of rupture when used as temporary accommodation, exacerbating the stigmatisation and threats to well-being that homeless families suffer.

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