Housing and other supports for homeless people


This document outlines the various types of support and accommodation options available to people who are homeless. These options range 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.

Services for rough sleepers

Some community services offer contact and food to rough sleepers, that is, people who are living and sleeping outdoors. 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. 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 related services, including bathing and laundry facilities.

Housing First Service

The Housing First Service 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 wrap-around supports for people who are sleeping rough or have been in emergency accommodation for a long time. These wrap-around supports can include health supports to help with addiction or mental health issues. The Housing First initiative was initially only available in Dublin but in September 2018 it was announced that the initiative will be extended nationwide.

Additional supports for rough sleepers in Dublin

Some supports for rough sleepers are currently only available in Dublin. These include:

  • The Cold Weather Initiative, which provides additional emergency beds from November to March each year for people who are sleeping rough.
  • A Night Café, which provides food, a 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. Hostel accommodation is not suitable for some people, due to the size or composition 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 is used. 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.

People who have been in emergency accomodation for a long time may be able to access the Housing First initiative. This initiative helps people access permenant housing and provides the wrap-around supports they may need to help them remain in stable accommodation.

Emergency accommodation for 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. Read more about family hubs on homelessdublin.ie

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 transitioning from homelessness to permanent accommodation) can get free childcare for 25 hours a week. This includes 15 hours of free pre-school (ECCE) where children are eligible, 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.

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.

Applying for social housing

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 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*

*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. To help to cover your rent, you can apply for the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), which has been introduced to replace long-term Rent Supplement

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 prescribed 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 household that cannot find suitable accommodation within these limits.

The Homeless HAP scheme, which is operated by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, provides specific flexibility (again on a case-by-case basis) for eligible homeless households. Cork City Council is operating a similar service for homeless households in Cork.

The Dublin Place Finder Service supports homeless households in the Dublin region to find a tenancy using HAP. In 2017, a Place Finder Service began operating in Cork city and in January 2018, all local authorities were given the option to introduce a Homeless HAP Place Finder Service in their area. 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.

Transitional housing

Transitional housing is for people who need time and assistance to prepare for independent living. As well as providing medium-term accommodation, these schemes generally:

  • Help people build their skills and capacity to establish themselves in a home, and
  • Address any issues that the person might have that would 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, 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 (see below) you apply in the normal way, unless you are in Dublin where you apply to the 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 under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme (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 months (183 days) of the last 12 months. However, if you have already been assessed as qualified 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).

The detailed rules are in our document on 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. 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, Galway, Wicklow and Cork city can access this protocol through the Tenancy Protection Service on 1800 454 454.

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 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.

Other supports

Address point service

An Post has set-up an address point service, which gives homeless people and people living in temporary accommodation a personal postal address and mail collection point. You can use the address to access services that they may be difficult or impossible to get without an address, for example, to set-up a bank account, apply for jobs, register to vote or 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, 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.

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: 2 May 2019