New research, published today in our journal The Geographical Journal, reveals the daily disruption homeless families living in temporary hotel accommodation experience.
Carried out by Dr Mel Nowicki (Oxford Brookes University), Professor Katherine Brickell (Royal Holloway, University of London) and Dr Ella Harris (Goldsmiths, University of London), the one year study conducted research with 16 formerly homeless families, all of whom had become homeless as a consequence of eviction from the private rental sector, family breakdown, or a combination of the two. Each household had spent significant periods of time living in hotels in Dublin, Ireland, whilst awaiting permanent accommodation, with one household living in a hotel for three years.
Through semi-structured interviews, respondents reported the impact hotel living had on their mental and physical health. Daily routines were disrupted as families were left unable to cook, do their laundry, or take their 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.
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.
In Dublin alone, there were 850 families legally classed as homeless, including 1,926 children, living in hotel accommodation in 2018. Previous research has looked at experiences of homelessness, but this increasing intersection between homelessness and the hotel industry has been relatively under-researched, until now.
Dr Nowicki said: “This research has really hammered home how terrifyingly easy it is to become homeless; 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’s 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.”
You can read the full research in The Geographical Journal.