This document provides information on homelessness and the law, the duties of the State towards people who are homeless, reasons for homelessness and national policy on homelessness.
Action Plan: An Action Plan to tackle emergency and short-term homelessness was announced in December 2014, including:
Read more in ‘Strategy and policy’ below.
Section 2 of the Housing Act 1988 states that you are considered homeless if:
In general, you may be considered homeless if you are:
Often the term ‘out-of-home’ is used to refer to people who have nowhere to live. This term recognises the fact that you may have a home that you cannot return to (for whatever reason).
At present, there is no explicit right to housing in the Constitution or in Irish law. The Constitutional Convention recommended in February 2014 that the Constitution should be amended to include economic, social and cultural rights, including a specific right to housing, but no decision has yet been made on this recommendation.
While local authorities do not have a statutory obligation to house people, they do have general responsibility under the Housing Act 1988 for the provision of housing for adults who cannot afford to provide it for themselves. They may help with accommodation either by providing housing directly or through arrangements with voluntary housing organisations and other voluntary bodies. They may also provide funding to voluntary bodies for emergency accommodation and for long-term housing for homeless people.
The Act also requires that local authorities carry out periodic assessments of the number of people who are homeless in their administrative area, as part of their housing needs assessment – see 'National profile of homelessness' below.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) has general responsibility for the health and in-house care needs of homeless people. In terms of funding, this means that local authorities are responsible for the costs of providing accommodation while the HSE provides funding for the care and welfare needs of homeless people, including in-house care.
The Child and Family Agency (Tusla) has responsibility under the Child Care Act 1991 for providing accommodation for people under the age of 18 who are homeless or in need of care. It may also provide aftercare facilities for young people aged over 18. Read more in our document on youth homelessness.
The reasons for people becoming homeless are both complex and wide-ranging but there is a particular risk at present for families with tenancies in the private rented sector.
According to Ending Homelessness – A Housing-Led Approach (pdf), research shows that the following are the main factors that lead to homelessness:
Many people are homeless for relatively short periods, for reasons linked to issues such as loss of employment, eviction or relationship breakdown. Others who experience multiple forms of social exclusion may become homeless in the long term, especially if they have been homeless before they become adults.
There are several different methods of counting the number of homeless people. While it is difficult to provide an accurate figure, it is clear that very many people are either homeless or at risk of losing their homes. Homelessness is generally concentrated in urban areas and the majority of homeless people are in Dublin.
The Housing Act 1988 requires local authorities to carry out assessments of housing need. The homeless people who are included in this assessment are those who are registered with the local authority and have been assessed as being in need of housing. The most recent housing need assessment was carried out in 2011.
Census 2011 was the first time that comprehensive information was collected on the number of homeless people in the State. Homeless people were counted on the basis of where they were on Census night and the count was undertaken with the help of the homelessness services. The results were published in Homeless Persons in Ireland; A special Census report.
The Dublin Region Homeless Executive conducts a rough sleeper count in the Dublin region every 6 months.
The Way Home – A Strategy to Address Adult Homelessness 2008-2013 (pdf), which was published in 2008, set out the aim of ending homelessness by 2016. A national implementation plan (pdf) was published in 2009 and the Programme for Government (2011) included a commitment to ending homelessness and the need to sleep rough by implementing a housing-led approach.
In February 2013, the Government issued a Homelessness Policy Statement (pdf). The overall strategy and aims of The Way Home continue to be Government policy but with the explicit recognition of the housing-led approach, which means that long-term secure housing, with social supports if necessary, is seen as the best outcome for homeless people.
The statement provided for the setting up of the Homelessness Oversight Group, which published its first report (pdf) in December 2013. The Group’s recommendations included the maintenance of funding at 2013 levels for the years 2014 to 2016 and the establishment of a Homelessness Policy Implementation Team.
The Implementation Plan on the State's Response to Homelessness – May 2014 to December 2016 (pdf) prioritises the following:
The Action Plan to Address Homelessness, published in December 2014, lists immediate actions to address rough sleeping in Dublin, as well as further actions to tackle systemic issues, grouped under prevention, accommodation and supports. As part of the Action Plan, an evaluation of the homelessness sector will be commissioned in 2015.
In Dublin, the Dublin Region Homeless Executive is responsible for the co-ordination of services for homeless people. In Cork, the Cork City Homeless Forum has produced a guide to homeless emergency services for adults.
Our document on housing and other supports for homeless people describes the available services and supports. Find out where to apply for these services. There are particular arrangements for young people who are homeless.
Focus Ireland has published an information guidebook: Working to end homelessness.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.