Report: Ireland’s Hidden Homelessness Crisis

Thursday, November 9, 2023 - 09:00

Research undertaken by Dr Rory Hearne and Kenneth McSweeney of the Department of Applied Social Studies Maynooth finds that even the record homelessness figures are a considerable underestimate of the real scale of the issue, due to the failure to consider and measure many people in hidden homelessness. The experience and trauma of homelessness is much more than just being in emergency accommodation. It includes multiple forms of housing insecurity and ‘home-loss’.
These findings are in the report being released today (Thursday 9th November 2023): "Ireland’s Hidden Homelessness Crisis: Applying the ETHOS Approach to Defining and Measuring Homelessness and Housing Exclusion in Ireland", researched and written by Dr Rory Hearne & Kenneth McSweeney of the Department of Applied Social Studies, Maynooth University.
The main findings of the report are:

  • Using the framework of international best practice for defining homelessness, the European Typology of Homelessness and Housing Exclusion (ETHOS), we estimate 23, 881 individuals in situations of homelessness, almost double those in monthly statistics. 
  • This includes people currently excluded from Ireland’s narrow measurement of homelessness such as those in women’s shelter/domestic violence refuges; people in state institutions and care due to leave with no housing to go to (care leavers, prisons); families in own-door short term accommodation; long-term homeless accommodation without tenancies; people in severe housing insecurity (staying temporarily with friends or family, couch surfing); those in Direct Provision with status and Travellers in substandard accommodation. 
  • Countries such as Finland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway use this wider definition of homelessness.
  • We estimate a further 51,061 living in housing exclusion or insecure and inadequate housing. 
  • These include, for example, people with disabilities in inappropriate accommodation, and adult children stuck living in the parental home. It also includes those who have received a notice to quit but are overholding, largely because they have nowhere to go once evicted. 
  • There were 20,604 notices to quit issued to private renters in just the twelve months from Q3 2022 to Q2 2023. In total, then, we estimate 74,942 individuals in homelessness and housing exclusion. Ireland also does not measure how many of the 522,486 adults aged 18 years and over living with their parents are insecure and potentially at risk of homelessness.
  • Another area of hidden homelessness we identified is people who are homeless, but not recognised as such by the local authority and therefore they are not counted. 
  • We also found that in the months following the lifting of the eviction ban, people (including families with children) contacted local authority homeless services but were told that there is no (or only inappropriate) emergency accommodation available. Such people are also not counted as homeless, even though they are being evicted from their home with nowhere to go. 
  •  In contrast, in Northern Ireland, they measure all those presenting as homeless and provide them with advice and support.
  • Our research reveals, for the first time, the shocking numbers of children who have experienced the trauma of homelessness. Today, there are 3,904 children homeless nationally. We estimate that approximately 17,000 children have experienced the trauma of homelessness in emergency accommodation in Ireland since 2016. In Dublin, 12,804 unique children with their 6,759 families spent some time in emergency accommodation between 2016 to 2023.
  • We also find a dramatic increase in the length of time families and children are being left in homelessness. 
  • The unacceptably large numbers of people being made homeless is a social catastrophe which is causing huge and deep personal human trauma to each individual experiencing it. Accurate data and measurement is required if policy is to be effective. 

Dr Rory Hearne is Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Social Studies Maynooth University and author of Gaffs. The research for Ireland’s Hidden Homelessness Crisis, authored by Dr Rory Hearne and Kenneth McSweeney, was funded under the Irish Research Council New Foundations Awards. You can download the report here: Ireland’s Hidden Homelessness Crisis