Over half of domestic violence refuges across the country that were contacted by RTÉ News have said they are currently full.

20 refuges were contacted, 11 said all of their available emergency refuge units were currently full.

Refuges say that women who present to them needing emergency refuge may only need the room for a few days, but usually it takes a couple of weeks to make sure the woman is safe and to put in place court orders, financial support, alternative housing and counselling.

However, most refuges contacted by RTÉ News have reported clients having to stay for months.

Over half the refuges contacted said the longest resident currently in the refuge is there over four months.

In a Limerick refuge, staff said they recently had a resident move on who was there for 14 months.

Refuges said the reason they are seeing prolonged stays in their emergency housing, is due to the lack of available housing.

Refuges in Mayo, Drogheda and Bray, said they are seeing women move on from the refuge to further homeless emergency accommodation because they cannot find anywhere to live.

Some of the refuges were able to report their refusal rate for 2022, this is the number of women who presented looking for refuge that they could not accommodate.

In 2022 Sonas Refuge in Dublin, had to refuse 470 people, similarly Aoibhneas Refuge, also in Dublin, had 402 refusals.

Outside of Dublin, Kildare's Teach Tearmainn refuge had to refuse 213 requests for accommodation because they were full.

Further down the country Cuan Saor in Clonmel, Tipperary, said they were unable to admit 191 women and 203 children.

In Westmeath, Esker House is the only refuge in the midlands, and in 2022 they had 189 requests for emergency refuge that were not met.

Esker House has been identified as a priority area for more refuge spaces, and they are looking to build a new refuge to be up and running the next three years.

Deirdre Berry who is the Manager at Esker House in Westmeath, said the situation is "really bleak".

"It means that as a service and the other domestic violence services in Ireland, we work very closely with, we all have to work more creatively to keep women safer in their own homes and their communities."

Ms Berry said due to the shortage of accommodation, there needs to be more effort made to keep women safe in their homes.

"What we need to look at now is responding in a more appropriate way, where perpetrators are removed, where perpetrators are made accountable for their behaviour.

"That we're twisting narratives, and we're asking the perpetrator, why are they doing this? Instead of saying to the women, 'why don't you just leave?’"

"House prices are going up. There's no houses there. There's no available social housing, so all of the areas that women could have an opportunity to move if staying at home isn't an option, they've all been dwindling for us, and even non-existent at the moment.

"It is really important for anybody out there that is experiencing something that they do reach out for help. If you feel that something [is] not right, please reach out for support, please reach out."

A TUSLA review published in 2022 showed that over 1.2 million people in Ireland are more than 30 minutes away from a unit or family place, and those who are furthest away from refuge accommodation were those in the midlands and north-west.

Nine counties are without a refuge, they are: Carlow, Cavan, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon and Sligo, but they do have domestic violence support services, and these services work with refuges around the country to find any safe housing available to people who present to them.

Anne Clarke, Manager of Offaly Domestic Violence Support Service, said they look to other refuges in other counties for space if someone presents to them in crisis.

"We try and go as local as possible to other counties that are nearby, but that can prove difficult because they're always full. If we have to go, maybe as far as Galway or Kilkenny, then that will be short term, because a lot of their supports are still back in Tullamore.

"A lot of the time it can be really difficult to juggle that emergency accommodation. We have varied supports that we can put in place," she said.

Domestic violence support services often look for emergency BnB accommodation for women, or there is a rent supplement for victims of domestic violence.

The Department of Social Protection said 140 people availed of that supplement in 2022.

However, Ms Clarke said with the shortage of available accommodation, sometimes women are left with very little choice.

"What really happens most of the time is the person remains in the abusive home because we don't have any other options." Ms Clarke said.

Ms Clarke said their support service was "extremely busy" throughout 2022, and their service also supports men.

Ms Clarke said they have seen an increase in men contacting their service looking for support. There is currently no dedicated refuge for men in Ireland.

In June 2022 the Minister for Justice published the Zero Tolerance Strategy and according to the department, the overarching priority over the lifetime of the strategy is to ensure that everybody who needs a refuge space will get one.

In a statement the Department said, it is the Minister's intention that an additional 98 refuge units in priority locations, these are those areas without refuge or with an acute need, they will have been delivered by 2025.

The Department said by 2026 - at the end of the current strategy - there will be over 280 refuge units, which is double what we currently have.

However, according to the Istanbul convention against violence against women and domestic violence, which Ireland has signed up to, if we were to live up to that commitment fully, we would need 476 refuge units in total.

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