by Mike Ryan and Gary Mulcahy
Finding somewhere to live for any student on a limited budget can be challenging. Mature students face a number of extra hurdles as they commit to studying full-time and supporting themselves independent of any family support. Many mature students are parents and have dependents to support. A high number of mature students are dependent on Social Welfare or SUSI to finance their education and they can have extra demands such as juggling family responsibilities, rent/mortgage, childcare, caring for elderly parents, health issues as well as all of the everyday responsibilities of living.
With high rents nationwide, and a lack of clarity around resources and options available to people in full-time education, the past few years has seen a massive increase in incidents of homelessness among students. It has become more frequent in recent years for the Mature Student Office to have to advise mature students on the brink of being homeless. Some mature students might be in the fortunate situation to qualify for HAP, the Housing Assistance Payment. The current rate of HAP is €550 for a single person renting a single occupancy house, or €300 if they are sharing with others, which would significantly ease the fiscal burden placed on them. However, as most student lets are only short term (within the academic year), the real challenge is finding a landlord willing to provide a longer rental period at the right price.
Homelessness can happen to anyone, at any time and for a variety of reasons. Here are some examples that mature students have brought to the attention of the Mature Student Office over the years
- Landlord decides to sell the house that the mature student is renting, and they find it difficult to find affordable alternative accommodation to move into.
- Cases of mature students having to sleep in their car due to lack of money to pay for the diesel for a return journey to attend lectures or get short-term accommodation
- Relationship breakdown where the student had to leave the family home
- Loss of part-time job that funded their ability to attend University
In UCC, the Office of Accommodation and Community Life has been providing a wealth of information to students for years now, and as the average rent has skyrocketed nationwide (€1,304 per month for house rental as of 2019), they’ve been at the coal face of the issue, helping to advise and accommodate students across the entire university. Many of those coming for help are mature students.