Traveller homelessness and chronic overcrowding
Eight people sleep in the 16ft caravan owned by Kathleen and Patrick Sherlock, in Ennistymon, Co Clare.
The Government’s statistics obscure the reality of homelessness and accommodation conditions within the Traveller community:
The term ‘sharing’ of houses and halting bay sites is a euphemism for Travellers living in chronic overcrowding
The term ‘basic’ service bays refers to sites that are often flooded, rat infested and lack sufficient facilities
The term ‘unauthorised site’ refers to Travellers who are forced to live at the roadside due to lack of access to private rented accommodation, social housing and/or Traveller specific accommodation.
These Travellers are in effect homeless but they are excluded from Government statistics on homelessness. This is wholly unacceptable. Travellers who are homeless need to be categorized accordingly and their housing and accommodation needs must be met in a timely manner.
According to the NTACC annual report in 2013:
361 Traveller families lived on ‘unauthorized sites’
188 Traveller families lived on ‘basic service bays’
182 Traveller families shared permanent halting sites
17 Traveller families shared basic service bays/transient HS sites
663 Traveller families shared houses.
This means that roughly 5,500, or 18.6%, of the Traveller population are in need of proper accommodation provision. Using Census 2011 figures, this would be the equivalent of 853,415 of the general population in need of housing. Yet, the Traveller accommodation situation has not been regarded as a housing crisis.
Recently there has been a significant decrease of Traveller families living in private rented accommodation. Between 2013-2015, 237 Traveller families left private rented accommodation. This figure correlates with an increase of 200 Traveller families sharing houses and an increase of 173 families on ‘unauthorized sites’.
It is clear that Traveller families are responding to the accommodation crisis by relocating to sites that are already overcrowded, unsafe and inhabitable.