Housing and other supports for homeless people


This document outlines the various types of support and accommodation options available to people who are homeless – ranging from street-based assistance to long-term housing, as well as social welfare entitlements. Some people who are homeless simply need somewhere to live. Others may have specific additional needs, due to mental health difficulties, addiction, relationship breakdown or other problems. There are particular arrangements for young people who are homeless.

Depending on your location and your circumstances, different support services may be available. Most homeless people are in the cities. In Dublin and Cork, the local authorities and the Department of Social Protection provide dedicated services for homeless people. Our document on agencies that provide services for homeless people gives details of where to apply for the various supports. You will also find useful information in Focus Ireland’s guidebook: Working to end homelessness.

Action Plan: The Action Plan to tackle emergency and short-term homelessness was announced in December 2014, including:

  • Enhanced services for rough sleepers, priority allocation of social housing and rollout of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) for eligible homeless households – all in Dublin
  • Extending the Tenancy Protection Service to Cork
  • Assessing the scale of homelessness in Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford and identifying actions needed

Services for rough sleepers

Some community services offer contact and food to rough sleepers, that is, people who are living and sleeping outdoors by day and night. For example, soup runs provide sandwiches and hot drinks to rough sleepers in many urban areas.

Street outreach teams befriend and engage with rough sleepers, aiming to link them with accommodation and other services with a view to helping them off the streets and into long-term accommodation, at their own pace.

Some organisations provide medical and related services, including bathing and laundry facilities.

The Cold Weather Initiative in Dublin provides additional emergency beds from November to March each year for people who are sleeping rough.

The Housing First Service in the Dublin region provides street outreach to people who are sleeping rough and helps them to access emergency accommodation. It also works to secure longer-term accommodation with extensive supports. It builds on the service formerly offered by the Housing First Demonstration Project (pdf).

Under the Action Plan of December 2014, additional emergency beds are being provided in Dublin, as well as a Night Café with food, rest area and showers; transport to emergency accommodation; and health and care supports.

Accommodation and housing supports

Emergency and temporary accommodation

Hostels are the main form of emergency accommodation provided for single homeless people. Private emergency accommodation (such as bed and breakfasts or hotels) is used for people for whom hostel accommodation is not suitable, due to the size or composition of the household or to particular medical or social needs. All placements in such accommodation are made on the basis that:

  • The person or household has been assessed as homeless
  • The accommodation is provided as an emergency (short-term) response and is subject to ongoing review
  • There should be active engagement with homeless services with a view to addressing all relevant issues
  • All viable options for moving on are explored
  • The person or household complies with any house rules and other conditions of the accommodation

Hostels can be short-term and/or long-term. Some provide dormitories and/or single rooms and some include meals and other services. Some may charge for accommodation on a nightly or weekly basis.

Women and children who are experiencing domestic violence may be accommodated in dedicated refuges.

Social housing

Housing provided by local authorities or voluntary bodies is usually referred to as social housing.

Local authorities have general responsibility under the Housing Act 1988 for the provision of housing for adults who cannot afford to provide it for themselves. However, they do not have a statutory obligation to house people. They may help with accommodation 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.

When you apply for social housing, the local authority must take the fact that you are homeless into account when assessing your need for housing and classifying your specific accommodation requirements. As part of the Action Plan of December 2014, the 4 Dublin housing authorities were directed to allocate 50% of all housing allocations to homeless households and other vulnerable groups for the next 6 months, having regard to the length of time these households have spent on the homeless list and other housing lists.

If the local authority is unable to offer you housing from its own stock, it may refer you to a housing association or to one of the other services described below.

To apply for local authority/social housing, you will need to fill in an application form. Each local authority publishes its own version but the information needed is standardised. You can get help (if necessary) to fill in this form from the housing section of your local authority, a Citizens Information Centre or voluntary organisation.

You will need:

  • Proof of your current address (homeless accommodation) such as a receipt from a hostel or bed and breakfast
  • Photo ID such as passport, driving licence
  • Your birth certificate
  • Your PPS Number
  • Evidence of your income
  • Proof of your citizenship or your permission to remain in the State (pdf)*

*Migrants: In general, you may be eligible for housing services if you are legally resident in Ireland and you have been living in the relevant local authority area for a specific length of time. Otherwise, you may get temporary help from an agency that provides services for homeless people.

Local authority housing is unfurnished. If you are offered a local authority home and you do not have and cannot afford to buy furniture or appliances, you may be eligible for help from the Department of Social Protection – see 'Social welfare' below.

Renting privately

If you cannot be housed by the local authority or a voluntary body, you can look for private rented housing and apply for a weekly Rent Supplement to help pay the rent. Alternatively, and depending on where you are, you may be eligible for the new Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), which is being introduced to replace long-term Rent Supplement. HAP is operational in several housing authorities and has been extended on a pilot basis to eligible homeless households in the Dublin region. The Homeless HAP Pilot is operated by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive.

Transitional housing

Transitional housing is for people who need time and assistance to prepare for independent living. As well as providing medium-term accommodation, such schemes generally support residents to build their skills and capacity to establish themselves in a home and address any issues that might make long-term housing unsustainable. Transitional housing is always time-limited and usually ranges from 6 months to 2 years.

Some projects focus on particular groups, such as rough sleepers; single parents; young people leaving State residential care. The services vary from project to project but are directly linked to the needs of residents. They can include individual needs analysis; personal planning and support; court support; outreach; family support; counselling; advocacy; prison community links; education and employment support; and life skills training programmes.

These transitional housing projects can only be accessed through referrals from other agencies. Transitional housing is funded through local authorities and the Health Service Executive (HSE) or local organisations, depending on the type of project. Residents pay a weekly charge towards their accommodation.

Settlement services

Settlement services work with people who are homeless to help them to move from homelessness and into long-term, sustainable housing. They carry out assessments and draw up a settlement plan with each person. They provide support, advocacy and other assistance in accessing accommodation and preparation for independent living. Post-settlement services provide time-limited tenancy support to people who have moved to their own accommodation.

Long-term supported housing

Long-term supported housing is for people who would not be able to live independently, due to problems like addiction or mental illness. They are offered a home for as long as is needed, with support as necessary. Some projects target people with particular care needs. Many voluntary housing bodies (often called housing associations) offer long-term supported housing.

The Support to Live Independently (SLÍ) scheme provides long-term accommodation in mainstream housing, together with appropriate time-limited supports to make the transition from homelessness to independent living. It is mainly designed for people who need low to moderate support and is provided through voluntary organisations.

Social welfare

Your entitlement to social welfare payments is not affected by the fact of being homeless but you may have difficulty getting your payments mainly because of not having a permanent address. You may make any claims for payments such as Jobseeker’s Allowance or illness and disability payments in the normal way.

For Rent Supplement and other payments under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme, outside of Dublin and Cork, you apply in the normal way. If you are in Dublin or Cork, you apply at the relevant Homeless Persons Unit.

Migrants: Most weekly means-tested payments require that you meet the habitual residence condition, but you do not need to satisfy this condition in order to get an Exceptional Needs Payment.

Rent Supplement

To be eligible for Rent Supplement, you must either have been assessed by a local authority in the last 12 months as being qualified for social housing support – see ‘Social housing’ above – or else have been living for 6 months (183 days) out of the last 12 months in one, or a combination, of the following:

  • Accommodation for homeless people
  • An institution – for example, a hospital, care home or place of detention
  • Private rented accommodation. You can combine time living in more than one rented accommodation to satisfy the 6 months (183 days). You must be able to show that you could afford the rent at the beginning of your tenancy and that you could have continued to pay rent but are unable to do so because of a change in your circumstances which occurred after you started renting.

There may be flexibility in cases where landlords seek rents that are above the Rent Supplement limits. This applies to existing tenants and to new Rent Supplement applicants. The circumstances of tenants are considered on a case-by-case basis and rents increased above the set limits as appropriate. Contact the local office that administers your Rent Supplement.

In addition, the Department of Social Protection, in conjunction with Threshold, operates a special protocol in areas where supply issues are particularly acute. Tenants in Dublin, Kildare, Meath, Wicklow and Cork city can access the Tenancy Protection Service on 1800 454 454.

Other payments under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme

As well as Rent Supplement, the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme also includes a basic weekly payment and some discretionary payments. You may qualify for the weekly payment if you are not entitled to any other social welfare payment or if you are waiting for your claim for any other payment to be processed.

You may qualify for a discretionary payment if you are in need. The one most immediately relevant for homeless people is an Exceptional Needs Payment. This is a one-off payment that you may get if you have unforeseen expenses such as clothing, travel, rent deposit or costs relating to setting up a home that you could not reasonably be expected to meet from your weekly income.

Where to apply

See our document on agencies providing services for homeless people for details of where to apply for the various supports outlined above.

Page edited: 31 May 2016