Housing and other supports for homeless people
There are different support and accommodation options if you are homeless. These include:
- Street-based assistance
- Emergency accommodation
- Long-term housing
- Social welfare entitlements
Some people may need somewhere to live while others may need extra supports due to personal issues, such as:
- Mental health difficulties
- Relationship breakdown
- Other problems
Depending on your location and your circumstances, different support services may be available. The majority of 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.
Your local authority will be able to give information about the specific supports in your area.
There are also particular arrangements for young people who are homeless.
Our page on agencies that provide services for homeless people gives details of where to apply for the various supports listed below.
Services if you are sleeping rough
Rough sleepers are people who are living and sleeping outdoors. Some community services offer support and food to rough sleepers. For example, there are soup runs providing sandwiches and hot drinks to rough sleepers in many urban areas.
Street outreach teams befriend and engage with rough sleepers. They aim to link rough sleepers with accommodation and other services to help them off the streets and into long-term accommodation.
Some organisations provide medical and other services to rough sleepers, including bathing and laundry facilities.
In Dublin, the Cold Weather Strategy provides additional emergency beds in the winter months for people who are sleeping rough.
Housing First is a national service that provides outreach to people who are sleeping rough and helps them to access emergency accommodation.
It also works to secure longer-term accommodation with extensive wrap-around supports for people who are sleeping rough or have been in emergency accommodation for a long time.
These can include health supports to help deal with issues around:
- Mental health
- Physical health
The Housing First National Implementation Plan 2022-2026 (pdf) has more information about this service and outlines its goals for the next few years.
What accommodation and housing supports are available
What types of emergency accommodation are there?
Hostels are the main form of emergency accommodation for single homeless people. Hostel accommodation is not suitable for some people, due to the size or make up of their household or because of the person's particular medical or social needs.
In these situations, other emergency accommodation such as, bed and breakfasts, hotels or family hubs are used. This will only happen if:
- 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 follows any house rules and other conditions of the accommodation
Hostels can be short-term or long-term. Some provide dormitories or single rooms and some include meals and other services. Some may charge for accommodation on a nightly or weekly basis.
People who have been in emergency accommodation for a long time may be able to access the Housing First initiative.
Family hubs and other supports for homeless families
Family hubs aim to provide suitable emergency accommodation for families with children who have lost their rented accommodation. They give families the security of an ongoing placement, which they may not have in a hotel.
The hubs have separate bedrooms, homework and play spaces as well as laundry, cooking and dining facilities.
Women and children who are experiencing domestic violence may be accommodated in dedicated refuges.
Extra supports for families in emergency accommodation
Children under the age of 5 whose parents are homeless (or are moving from homelessness to permanent accommodation) can get free childcare for up to 25 hours a week. This includes 15 hours of free pre-school (ECCE) where children qualify, or school hours. It also includes a daily meal. Parents should not be asked to pay any top–up or co-payment for these part-time hours.
Free public transport is also available for families living in emergency accommodation to cover their school journeys and family travel.
Housing provided by local authorities or approved housing bodies is usually referred to as social housing.
Local authorities have general responsibility to provide housing for adults who cannot afford to provide it for themselves. This is outlined under the Housing Act 1988. However, they do not have a statutory obligation to house people.
They may help with accommodation by providing housing directly or through arrangements with approved housing bodies. They may also provide funding to approved housing bodies for emergency accommodation and for long-term housing for homeless people.
Applying for social housing when you are homeless
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.
If the local authority is unable to offer you housing from its own stock, it may refer you to an approved housing body 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 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
What if I am a migrant?
In general, you are 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.
Help with costs if I get social housing
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 'Accessing social welfare payments' below.
If the local authority or an approved housing body can’t provide you with a home, you can look for private rented housing. To help to cover your rent, you can apply for the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).
Housing Assistance Payment
If you are on the HAP scheme, the local authority pays your landlord directly. You will pay a weekly HAP rent contribution to the local authority, based on your income and your ability to pay.
In general, the rent must be within the HAP rent limits for your household size and the area you live in. However, flexibility may be provided, on a case-by-case basis, for households that cannot find suitable accommodation within these limits.
The Homeless HAP scheme, which is operated by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, provides specific flexibility for homeless households that qualify. Cork City Council is operating a similar service for homeless households in Cork.
The Dublin Place Finder Service (pdf) supports homeless households in the Dublin region to find a tenancy using HAP. Many local authorities in other areas now also have a Homeless HAP Place Finder Service.
If you are in emergency homeless accommodation, your local authority may help with any deposit or advance rental payments needed to get accommodation under the HAP scheme. You should contact the housing section of your local authority for further information on this.
What is transitional housing?
Transitional housing is for people who need time and support to prepare for living independently. As well as providing medium-term accommodation, these schemes generally:
- Help people build their skills and capacity to establish themselves in a home
- Address any issues that the person might have that would make long-term housing challenging
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 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
- Family support
- Prison community links
- Education and employment support
- Life skills training programmes
These services can only be accessed through referrals from other agencies. Transitional housing is funded through local authorities, the Health Service Executive (HSE) or local organisations, depending on the type of project. Residents pay a weekly charge towards their accommodation.
What are 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 to help homeless people access accommodation and prepare for independent living. Post-settlement services provide time-limited tenancy support to people who have moved to their own accommodation.
What is 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 approved housing bodies offer long-term supported housing.
The Support to Live Independently (SLI) scheme provides long-term accommodation and supports to individuals and families who are homeless to help them make the transition from homelessness to independent living. It is for people who need low to moderate support and is run by the Dublin Simon Community for the 4 Dublin Local Authorities.
Accessing your social welfare payment when you are homeless
Your right to social welfare payments does not change if you are homeless. However, you may have difficulty getting your payments if you do not have a permanent address. You can 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 (see below) you apply in the normal way, unless you are in Dublin where you apply to the Homeless Persons Unit.
What if I am a migrant?
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 (see below).
Payments under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme
The Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) scheme includes a Rent Supplement to help cover the cost of rent. The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is gradually replacing long-term Rent Supplement, but you may be able to get Rent Supplement, depending on your situation - for example, if you were living in accommodation for homeless people for at least 6 of the last 12 months (183 days).
However, if you already qualify for social housing support, you will be referred to your local authority to have your housing needs addressed (rather than being assessed for Rent Supplement).
There may be flexibility in cases where rents are above the Rent Supplement limits. This applies to existing tenants and to new Rent Supplement applicants. The tenant's circumstances are considered on a case-by-case basis and rents may be increased above the set limits as appropriate.
Threshold operate a Tenancy Protection Service in certain areas to help tenants stay in their rented accommodation. The service operates in:
- Cork city
You can contact the Tenancy Protection Service on 1800 454 454 from 9am to 9pm Monday to Friday or email email@example.com.
Other payments under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme
The SWA scheme also includes a basic weekly payment and some discretionary payments. You may qualify for the weekly payment if you do not qualify for 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 most relevant payment 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:
- Rent deposit
- Costs relating to setting up a home that you could not reasonably be expected to meet from your weekly income
This also includes buying furniture and appliances if you are moving into local authority housing.
Address point service
An Post has set-up an address point service, which gives people without a fixed address a personal postal address and mail collection point. You can use the address to access services that may be difficult or impossible to get without an address, such as to:
- Set-up a bank account
- Apply for jobs
- Register to vote
- Arrange medical appointments
You can also use the address to keep in touch with family and friends. You must register online for the free address point service. You provide your name, your county and select your local post office, and then your personal address is generated. The address has no reference to the post office, but is completely personal.
You can collect your post from your selected post office by showing photo identification. Your post will be kept for a maximum of 20 days. After this, it will be returned to the sender.
Where to apply
See our page on agencies providing services for homeless people for details of where to apply for the various supports outlined above.