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Homelessness in


Homelessness in Ireland

What is homelessness?
Homelessness is more than just "rooflessness" or "houselessness". It is about lack of shelter, lack of security, lack of belonging and safety.

What causes homelessness?
Homelessness is not a separate issue but occurs as part of other social problems: inadequate income, educational deprivation, low pay, unemployment and the experience of institutional care. It is a complex problem caused by a combination of lack of access to economic resources, affordable housing and a personal life crisis such as illness, bereavement or marital breakdown.

Who Are The Homeless?
The following people are vulnerable to homelessness:
  • people coming from backgrounds of poverty who have had little formal education or training.
  • people who were reared in child care institutions.
  • returned emigrants who have worked abroad, usually in Britain, in low-paid, unskilled work before becoming long-term unemployed and eventually homeless.
  • people living in institutions, e.g., prisoners and long-term psychiatric patients.
  • tenants at the lower end of the private rented market who are living in sub-standard housing without security of tenure and who are constantly at risk of being evicted.
A wide variety of people experience homelessness at some point in their lives.  This can vary from "sleeping rough" in doorways or in parks, to living long-term in shelters or hostels.
Homelessness can also be less visible where people live with friends and relatives. This 'hidden homelessness' is particularly common among women and children who are fleeing domestic conflict.

The main obstacle facing the homeless person is the chronic lack of suitable affordable accommodation.

The Simon Community and other voluntary organisations have noted an increasing number of younger persons becoming homeless.

Young people and homelessness

  • Most 18-25 year-olds move away from the parental home and start to live independently, for the majority this process, though it may be difficult, works well.
  • However, for some young people the transition is made difficult by poverty, personal circumstances or a family situation. Many have no family home or are unable to return to it.
  • Owner occupation is out of the question for all but the very well off, and there is virtually no public sector housing or housing association accommodation for young people without children.
 The private rented sector is the only realistic option for the vast majority.

Without accommodation, a young adult who is out-of-home will probably themselves either on the streets, sleeping on a friend's floor, squatting, or staying in an adult hostel.  All these accommodation options are temporary and stressful.
Furthermore, they do not allow the person to tackle the issues, which are preventing them from securing permanent housing. For example, it is virtually impossible to get training or a job while you are homeless. Young people in this situation are very vulnerable to exploitation, and others are drawn into petty crime.

Effects of Homelessness

  • Long-term homelessness lowers morale and self-esteem. It causes physical and psychological damage to one's health.
  • Homeless persons are especially prone to a breakdown in their physical and mental health. Skin diseases, chronic bronchitis, alcoholism, emphysema and TB are some of the severe medical problems suffered by the homeless.
  • The years of sleeping rough takes their toll.
Many homeless people do not live to see old age.

How many people are homeless in Ireland?
No one can say exactly how many people experience homelessness in Ireland. The few official attempts to measure the problem have been poorly researched and resulted in a gross undercount. It must be acknowledged that the homeless population is notoriously mobile, invisible and, from a research perspective, difficult to identify.

The Simon Community of Ireland:
The Simon Community is a voluntary organisation, which works with homeless people, in particular, the long-term homeless. It was founded in 1963 in England, the first Irish Simon Community was established in Dublin in 1969. There are now Simon Communities in Cork, Dublin, Dundalk and Galway.

The Simon Community becomes involved in projects such as:

  • Outreach services, e.g., the nightly soup-run to people sleeping rough on the streets
  • emergency shelters providing short-term accommodation;
  • long-stay residential houses offering a permanent home;
  • settlement services including transitional housing and work projects.
Further Information

If you would like to find out more about the work of the Simon Community and how you could help the Community, contact:

Galway Simon Community,
1 Devon Place, The Crescent, Galway.
Tel : (091) 589415; Fax: (091) 582811;

Simon Community of Ireland
28-30 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2.
Tel : (01) 6711606 Fax: (01) 6711098;

Focus Ireland
14a Eustace Street
Dublin 2
Phone: (01) 671 2555