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:
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.
people coming from backgrounds of poverty who have had little formal education
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
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.
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
The private rented sector is the only realistic option for the vast
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,
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.
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
Many homeless people do not live to see old age.
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.
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.
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;
14a Eustace Street
Phone: (01) 671 2555