If you are living in Ireland in a hostel or bed and breakfast or staying temporarily with friends because you have nowhere else to go, you are homeless. If you think you may lose your home soon, you should immediately contact your local authority and, if necessary, get advice about your situation from your nearest Citizens Information Centre or Threshold. Depending on your area and your circumstances, there may be many different support services available. Some people who are homeless have particular needs. For example, they may have mental health difficulties, drug or alcohol addiction, family or relationship breakdown or other problems. The following information describes the supports and accommodation options available to homeless people – from very temporary assistance to long-term housing.
Certain community services for homeless people target different groups. Those living and sleeping outdoors during the day and at night are one of these groups. Some of these community services offer contact and food. For example, ‘soup runs’ take place in many urban areas where teams of volunteers provide sandwiches and hot drinks to rough sleepers. Other community services provide more comprehensive supports. Street outreach teams assist homeless sleeping on the streets. They help to link them with accommodation and other services with a view to helping them off the streets and into long term accommodation. The Homeless Agency publishes a list of street services available in Dublin.
Emergency and temporary accommodation
Hostel accommodation is the main form of emergency accommodation provided for single homeless people in Ireland. Private emergency accommodation (generally bed and breakfast) is used for individuals or families not suitable for hostel accommodation. Reasons some people may not be suited to hostel accommodation might include household size, composition or particular medical or social needs.
Any emergency or temporary accommodation is assigned on the basis that:
- The person or persons has/have been assessed as homeless
- The accommodation provided is an emergency (short term) solution and is subject to constant review
- There should be active involvement with homeless services with a view to addressing all relevant issues
- That all viable move-on options are explored
- The resident of any emergency accommodation unit follows the house rules and other conditions.
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. The Homeless Agency provides a list of all emergency hostels in Dublin.
Transitional housing is for people who need time and assistance to prepare for independent living. It involves provision of both medium-term accommodation and a support programme that helps residents to develop the skills and capacity to establish themselves in a home and concentrate on anything that might make long-term housing unsustainable. Transitional housing is time limited, usually from six months to two years. Some projects target particular groups (e.g. young people, those who leave foster or residential care, single parents). The services available are directly linked to the needs of residents. For example, 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 are some of the services provided. The transitional housing projects in Ireland can only be accessed through referrals from other agencies. Transitional housing is funded through local authorities and the Health Services Executive (HSE) or local organisations (such as the Homeless Agency), depending on the type of project. Residents of all Dublin City Council Hostels and transitional homeless accommodation pay a weekly charge towards their accommodation and there is also a charge for accommodation provided by voluntary agencies such as Focus Ireland and Simon. The Homeless Agency publishes a list of transitional housing providers in Dublin.
Private rented accommodation
Private rented housing is a source of accommodation for single homeless people. Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme (SWA) may help with the rent. This program is funded by the HSE Areas and administered by Community Welfare Officers (CWOs). If your income is too low to meet certain special needs (for example a special diet), you may get a weekly supplement and also get help with paying a rental deposit.
Before beginning to look for private rented accommodation you should:
- Check with your local Community Welfare Officer (CWO) or (in Dublin) the Homeless Person’s Unit (1800 724 724) that you are entitled to rent supplement.
- Ensure that you are registered for housing or on the homeless list with your local authority.
- Ensure that you have your rent supplement form (available from any health centre) stamped by your local authority.
Once you have found suitable accommodation and your rent supplement form has been stamped by your landlord, your CWO will assess the accommodation and let you know if it is acceptable to them.
Local authority housing
Local authorities are responsible for meeting the housing needs of those who are homeless. They begin by assessing applications from people who are homeless. Where someone is accepted as being homeless, they are given overall priority for housing, but must still wait until suitable housing becomes available. Priority is given on the basis of need. Some local authorities operate a 1:3 allocation to people on their homeless waiting list which means that every third accommodation unit that becomes available is allocated to someone who is homeless. In addition, local authority housing departments can provide advice and information to you on your housing options (although private housing is often the only option for homeless people, particularly single people). To register for local authority housing you will need to fill in an application for housing (your local authority can help with filling in this form if necessary).
You will need:
- Proof that you are staying in homeless accommodation, e.g. a receipt from a hostel or bed and breakfast accommodation
- Your PPS Number
- Photo ID such as passport, drivers licence
- Evidence of your income
Settlement services help homeless people to move from homelessness and into long term, sustainable housing. Settlement workers carry out assessments and prepare 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. These services are a relatively new service area and are mainly available in Dublin. In 2002, Threshold, on behalf of the Homeless Agency, established the Access Housing Unit through which tenancies in the private rented sector are made available to people referred by homeless services. The Access Housing Unit works as a specialised accommodation agency to help homeless people living in temporary or emergency accommodation to find and sustain private rented housing. You can read more about the Access Housing Unit on Threshold’s website.
Long-term supported housing
Long-term supported housing is for people who would not be able to live independently in mainstream housing. (They would not be able to live independently for a variety of reasons, for example, mental illness or alcohol or drug problems.) They are offered a home for as long as is needed, with support as necessary. Some projects target people with particular care needs (e.g. mental health). The majority of residents in long-term supported accommodation are in receipt of social welfare benefits. The Homeless Agency publishes a list of supported housing in Dublin.
How to apply
Information on accommodation available to homeless people is available from your local authority and HSE Area. (Ask to speak to a ‘Housing Welfare Officer’). In Dublin, the Homeless Agency is responsible for the co-ordination of services for homeless people. They have produced an online guide to hostels, supported housing, advice, health and other services for homeless people in Dublin.