Donegal Travellers’ Project works across the range of Traveller accommodation needs, including social housing; private, rented accommodation; private accommodation; and services provided to families at the roadside.
DTP supports the accommodation goals of the Irish Traveller Movement, which are to provide culturally appropriate accommodation, enabling families to live in resourced accommodation of their choice, including nomadic provision.
The use of the word accommodation or home rather than house is deliberate. Travellers have been traditionally nomadic, and on the basis of their culture many Travellers would choose to live in halting sites or group housing schemes that would allow large, extended families to live together, based on Travellers’ shared identity.
The 2016 Irish Census showed that the number of Traveller households living in caravans or other mobile or temporary structures increased by 10.3 per cent between 2011 and 2016, after falling substantially between 2006 and 2011.
For the past 30 years, Travellers and their allies have campaigned for an inclusive Ireland that allows people to express their identity and culture, and a key component of Traveller ethnicity is the ability to live together in accommodation that respects their way of life. The 1998 Housing (Traveller) Accommodation Act placed a statutory obligation on local authorities to draw up plans, based on consultation with local Travellers, on how to meet their accommodation needs.
Poor accommodation affects every aspect of Travellers’ lives, and sites designed without Traveller participation often do not account for Traveller needs.
As well as that, members of the Traveller community have consistently faced difficulties in accessing private rented accommodation because of racial discrimination. Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre has reported a significant decrease in Traveller families living in private rented accommodation in recent years.
However, Pavee Point noted that the figures correspond with an increase in Traveller families sharing houses and living on “unauthorized sites”. According to Pavee Point, “It is clear that Traveller families are responding to the accommodation crisis by relocating to sites that are already overcrowded, unsafe, and inhabitable.”
The 2016 census also looked at households where the number of people exceeded the number of rooms as a measure of overcrowding. According to the census, nearly two in five Irish Traveller households, or 39.1 per cent, had more persons than rooms, compared with less than 6 per cent of all households that did so.
The independent review of funding of Traveller accommodation programmes that was carried out in 2017 as part of Rebuilding Ireland reported that Traveller accommodation targets have not been met at any point since they were assigned to local authorities 18 years ago.
The report also found that more than €55 million that was provided for Traveller housing had been unspent since 2000 and just 68 per cent of the promised units of Traveller accommodation – 6,394 units in all – had been provided.
Traveller accommodation workers at DTP provide robust supports for members of the Traveller and Roma communities, working with members of the communities on every step of the process to secure accommodation, from filling out the necessary forms, to advocating or representing with landlords, to working with members of the community in their dealings with banks and local authorities.
DTP also provides support for people seeking Housing Assistance Payment supports and works with members of the community to build their self-esteem and capacity to represent themselves with the local authority and other organisations and institutions.
A big part of DTP’s work is also to secure services for the homeless community and to advocate for them. DTP accommodation workers also help to identify suitable accommodation for people with addiction or mental health issues.
DTP works with dozens of families across the county on a weekly basis, from their offices in Ballyshannon and Letterkenny and through home visits.
There is more on accommodation issues facing the Traveller community at the websites for Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre, www.paveepoint.ie, and Irish Traveller Movement, https://itmtrav.ie.
For more information on local support services, contact Donegal Travellers’ Project on 074 912 9281 or call by the offices at 73 Port Road, Gortlee, Letterkenny.
DTP team members Siobhan McLaughlin, DTP Manager; Hugh Friel, DTP Men’s Health Worker; Rose McDonagh, Anne McLean and Patrick McGinley, DTP Community Health Workers; Kate Hagan, DTP Community Development and Health Worker; and Maeve McIvor, Traveller Job Coach at Donegal Local Development Company; are also based in the DTP offices in Ballyshannon on Wednesdays.
Donegal Travellers’ Project offices in Ballyshannon are located on the town’s Main Street and can also be reached by phone on (071) 985 1936 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.