Mercy Law Resource Centre continued to advocate strongly for legal and policy changes on the Right to Housing in 2018, including the proposal of legal reforms to tackle gaps in protection for children experiencing homelessness, as captured in its Annual Report 2018, launching on 16 September.
As well as its frontline work providing legal support to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, MLRC strives to improve the wider environment by advocating for change in laws, policies and attitudes that adversely affect its client group.
That policy work moved to a new level in 2018, when MLRC published two more reports on the right to housing, which is established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the European Social Charter.
The Right to Housing in Comparative Perspective, launched in March 2018, offers a comparative analysis on the legal framework on the right to housing in Finland, Scotland, France and South Africa. It underlines that such a right operate in well-functioning democracies, albeit that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution, and establishes that a legally enforceable right to housing provides a valuable floor to protection.
The second report, Children and Homelessness: A Gap in Legal Protection, published in September 2018, highlights grave and ongoing concerns in relation to the current legal framework in Ireland, which seriously fails homeless children.
The shortcomings in the legal framework on homelessness were highlighted in MLRC’s recent submission on family homelessness to the Joint Oireachtas Committee. The submission stated: “The gap in the law is clear because local authorities have a discretion but no duty to provide emergency accommodation for children in families.” It also noted “a legally enforceable right to housing would provide recognition that a home is central to the dignity of each and every person, and a foundation of every person’s life.”
These reports build on 10 years of work, including a signature Right to Housing Report from 2016, strategic litigation, and focused advocacy towards the Irish Government, the Oireachtas and the United Nations (with over 27 formal submissions). All that endeavour is aimed at addressing gaps in legal protection as well as systemic discrimination in policy or practice that faces those in Ireland who are homeless or at risk of becoming so.
The Centre will continue to seek positive legal, policy and practice changes for its client group, grounded in casework and research, as one of its core strategic objectives under MLRC’s Strategic Plan 2019-2024, adopted in May 2019.