Ireland’s Hidden Homeless: LGBT+ Youth
I met a girl recently who when we spoke, I realised was in an almost identical living situation to the one I had been in only a couple of weeks ago. Like me, she was living in Dublin hostels and using these temporary homes as a base to get to work every day. Anyone who has spent some time in Dublin hostels will be familiar with this scenario, the permanent residencies in constant rotation and Dublin’s hostels’ strict no long stay policies. It is not uncommon for people to find themselves living like this after moving to the city if they have not yet secured a permanent residence. As cut-throat as finding a place to live in Dublin is however, this girl’s case perplexed me; for whilst I had found a home within two weeks, she was bordering on hostel life coming up to five months.
The difference between the two of us? Well, for starters, she is a member of the LGBT+ community.
It is not something I had considered before, that my sexuality would be something that favoured me over others in this current housing battle, or that landlords would prefer money from one person’s wireless bank transfer over another’s.
“It’s more common than you would think. I’m so used to being in contact with people over text and it seeming like a done deal, only for them to completely change their tune when they meet me ” she told me.
In a horribly twisted way, this girl is one of the lucky ones. She has a full-time job that pays well and so far has not had any major issues within the hostels. But she still classifies as homeless, falling within the category known as “hidden homeless”.
People who fall into the hidden homeless category are those who do not have a place to live but are not on the radar of homelessness charities, organisations and stats because they are living in hostels or couch surfing, primarily provided by members of LGBT+ community in a bid to keep each other off the streets.
It is no secret that Dublin is currently facing a huge accommodation crisis that is affecting hundreds, if not thousands. Homelessness is at an all-time high, with 66% of the country’s homelessness by region occurring in Dublin (1). Focus Ireland’s stats for Dublin’s homeless in August 2019 numbered at 4,312. Of that number, 569 fell within the 18- 24 age bracket.
What is less common knowledge and not reflected in these data is how a disproportionate percentage of that 4,312 are LGBT+ youth, many of whom have become homeless through family and community rejection.
This, combined with a severe housing crisis and a society still deeply divided over issues like gender identification and sexual preference, means that finding stable homes for those who identify as LGBT+ can be a nightmare.
Without concrete stats, however, the issue cannot be tackled with targeted solutions. Focus Ireland has been pressing the government to conduct research on LGBT+ homelessness for years. Due to lack of action, they have paired up with BeLonG To to conduct their own research.
The problem is a unique one that has no immediate resolution in sight, with homeless facilities in Ireland already buckling under the insurmountable strain. But the sad truth is that the LGBT+ homeless community are more vulnerable in homeless hostels than other demographics and whilst they have similar needs, they are subject to more homophobic and transphobic intimidation and violence.
I am not saying that LGBT+ homelessness should take priority in Dublin City Council’s plan of attack on homelessness, but when I can find a place to live after two weeks but those who identify as LGBT+ can be waiting up to five months and a lot of it comes down to prejudice and want of education, attention needs to be drawn to this spectre that is haunting our most cosmopolitan city.
This kind of issue could be significantly reduced through education at a grassroots level. Education programs in schools and LGBT+ focused support and mediation for families could prevent the problem before it even occurs and reduce the strain on homeless facilities by tenfold. All Together Now, for example, is a program commissioned by BeLonG Youth Services that provides free teacher resources, including lesson plans and research.
Despite having spent €20million on Pope Francis’ thirty-six hour visit in 2018 and, according to The Journal, Dublin City Council spend roughly €1million a year on removing street art and graffiti, the government claims that they are doing their best to combat homelessness. I’m still waiting to see results.
It wasn’t that long ago that Irish people in England, looking for homes to rent, were met with signs saying, amongst other things, “No Irish”. Obviously landlords today in Dublin are not allowed to put up signs saying “No LGBT+”, but the situation in Dublin does seem to suggest that prejudices are still deeply held in this seemingly modern and diverse European city. I hope that people’s attitudes catch up with legislation soon.
Here are some cool non-profits that are tackling these issues themselves that are worth checking out:
BeLonG To, Dublin
BeLonG To is an inclusive and integrating support service for LGBTI+ youth whose aim to change attitudes, fight prejudice and provide support for those who need it. Their website is a treasure trove of resources for LGBT+ education, support and information on LGBT+ homelessness and material for teachers.
Address: Parliament House, 13 Parliament Street, Dublin
Phone: 01 670 6223
Outhouse is an LGBT+ community and resource centre that provides a safe space for LGBT+ people and groups to meet and gather information. They have been open since 1997 and is still going strong.
Address: 105 Capel Street D01 R290
Phone: (01) 873 4999
Rainbow Housing, Limerick
Although it is not an organisation open to the general public, this initiative being run by the University of Limerick is one of a kind and worth being recognised. The university is the first in the country -second only to the University of Sheffield in the UK – to open up student accommodation aimed specifically at LGBT+ students to create a safe space and supportive base.
Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI)
TENI seeks to improve the situation and advance the rights and equality of trans people and their families. They aim to do this through advocacy, education and support. You can find a whole wealth of information on their website.
Phone: +353 (0)1 907 3707
Study On LGBTI+ Youth Homelessness By BeLonG To And Focus Ireland
As mentioned before, BeLonGTo and Focus Ireland have teamed up to conduct pioneering research on LGBT+ homelessness. They are conducting anonymous, confidential, one on one interviews with anyone who identifies as LGBT+ between the ages 18 and 26 years and has experienced homelessness. The interviews are being run by Dr Aideen Quilty of UCD’s School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice. If you would like to take part or want to find out more, get in touch with Dr Quilty.
Phone: (01) 7168573 or