How does climate change impact our homeless population?

Source: Greennews.ie

22 July 2021

Homelessness
in Ireland is not a new topic. We have been tackling it for years and will
continue to do so. Homelessness is one of the immense social problems Ireland
is facing currently and it is one of the most extreme forms of social
exclusion.  

The most common definition of homelessness refers to individuals who are staying in emergency accommodations as well as those who are sleeping rough, sleeping outdoors or in areas that are not anticipated for human habitation. These individuals are known as the ‘absolute homeless’.

According
to a 2020 Social Justice Ireland report,
in July 2016 when Rebuilding Ireland was first introduced, 6, 525 people
accessed emergency accommodations. By January 2020, the number of people who
had accessed emergency accommodations increased by 60 per cent up to 10, 271
people. In that same time period, family homelessness increased by 42.5 per
cent. Although there are Government action plans to help homelessness in
Ireland, the numbers of people living homelessness continues to increase.

Then
we have the additional pressure of the Covid-19 pandemic on the construction
sector as the building of social housing that people so desperately need has
slowed.

Homeless
people are one of the most vulnerable groups in society, and they suffer from
higher rates of chronic disease than the general population.

Climate
change can have an impact on everyone’s lives, but it has a severely impact on
those of vulnerable groups in particular those who are homeless. Climate change
threatens the cleanliness of our air causing air pollution, the severe weather
changes and the pollution of our water. Homeless people are exposed to
breathing in polluted air 24 hours a day, heightening their risk of developing
respiratory conditions.

In
Ireland when weather drops below freezing in the wintertime or when torrential
rainfall comes down, those of us that are housed can take to the comfort of our
own homes.

Whereas
when homeless people are exposed to these weather conditions, they don’t have
the ability of keeping warm and dry in a nice cozy home. The mortality and
morbidity rates of homeless people are also affected by heat and cold exposure
which is exacerbated by climate change.  

For
homeless individuals’ food and clean water is not always accessible and as a
result homeless people suffer from poor nutrition.

Climate
change can also contribute to the reasoning why individuals can become
homeless. Carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels such as coal, natural
gases and oil is warming our planet and leading to climate change. Climate
change is expected to result in an increased of the frequency and the intensity
of natural disasters.

Events
like floods, wildfires, hurricanes and heatwaves are becoming more frequent and
even more extreme. Most recently we’ve seen wildfires and floods tear through residential
areas and leave the places where people once lived in complete ruin.

All
these climate disasters that happens throughout the world are wiping out and
destroying millions of homes, increasing the rates of homelessness and these
disasters will cause an increase of mortality rates.

We need to do everything in our capacity to halt further
warming and protect our planet, our homes, and our communities.

Niamh Walsh is a 21 year
old student who has recently completed her final year of her degree in Applied
Social Science in Maynooth University and will be graduating this year.

This article was written
as part of an assignment for a course module,
 Environment ,
Sustainability and Social Justice.

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