Housing First - The Solution to Ireland's Homelessness Crisis?


Month on month figures reveal that more and more men, women and children are finding their way onto our streets with no home to call their own. We need a change of strategy to effectively address the homelessness crisis in Ireland.

The government’s strategy in dealing with homelessness has been to provide short-term emergency accommodation through local authorities. Yes, this is better than doing nothing at all for people who find themselves with nowhere to go. But is it effective? Does it give people the platform to grow and make a life for themselves and their family? Does the current programme try to figure out why people are in their current situation and take proactive action to ensure that they and future generations will never have to face homelessness again? Unfortunately, the answer to these questions is no. It really is a case of putting a band-aid on a bullet wound.

Housing First - Ireland’s Alternative
Homeless services in Ireland generally operate on a staircase recovery model. In short, those seeking to be housed must prove their worth. For example, this can be done by living continuously in a homeless shelter while completing an addiction course or rehabilitation programme to prove one’s suitability for a home if substance abuse is identified as an issue. However, without a home one could only imagine the daily struggles you would face, mental and physical. The expectation of then entering and working your way up through the staircase model to secure housing is an unrealistic means to select those who need a home.

The Housing First Model sees the stairways recovery model as having the order backwards. The stages of the Housing First Model are:

Firstly, supply the person in question with a home of their own.

Immediately a specially dedicated care team give supports such as counselling or treatment for substance abuse to the new tenants if that is an identified inhibitor.

With continued support tenants develop the skills and resilience needed to sustain and flourish in their life and new home.

It is a simple model and the central premise makes perfect sense. Give someone a home and you’ll give them security and a platform to build from. Then the issues surrounding why such a person became homeless in the first place and how to avoid future homelessness can be addressed through the care team. This eventually leads to the full independent living of the tenant in receipt of the home.

The statistics back up the theory of the Housing First Model. In 2008, Finland adopted the Housing First Model and has eliminated long-term homelessness there. In Utah, USA, the implementation of the Housing First Model resulted in a 72% reduction in the numbers classified as long-term homeless in its first 9 years. Today, long-term homelessness has been eradicated in Utah.

In 2011, a shift towards the Housing First Model to alleviate long term homelessness was published in the Programme for Government. Currently only 1% of the national homeless budget is allocated to the Housing First Model. It is imperative that the government allocates more funding towards the Housing First Model so that charities and local authorities can tackle Ireland’s homelessness crisis effectively.





The Minister for Finance, Pascal Donogue, delivered Budget 2018 on the 10th October 2017. The budget received a mixed reception from charity sector organisations. Although extra funding for vital services was secured through tireless lobbying by charitable organisations, many feel not enough was done to tackle Ireland’s social issues. The following is a sector by sector breakdown of what the budget means for charitable organisations and their work:



Homelessness and the housing crisis

An additional €18 million funding for homeless services is welcome and will allow for homeless service providers to make more beds available in an attempt to alleviate Ireland’s growing homelessness crisis. However, it is questionable if this will be enough to make a significant impact as the crisis deepens at an unprecedented rate.

Across the board there was a welcomed increase in funding available for the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Scheme. Mr. O’Donoghue announced that an extra €149 million would be made available to the scheme in order to aid those struggling to make rental payments in the ever inflated private rental market. This is a preventative measure, rather than a reactionary measure, which is a more proactive approach to solving Ireland’s homeless crisis than in the recent past. The test of this measure will be private rental sector’s willingness to accept such payments by tenants struggling to make their spiralling rent.

Perhaps the most disappointing measure announced was the increased build of social housing. The announcement that 3,800 new social houses are to be built by the end of next year by local authorities and approved housing bodies was  a step in the right direction. However, when these figures were scrutinised by opposition parties and industry experts a different picture emerged. The 3,800 social housing homes promised by the Minister for Finance was already announced by Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy in September of this year. This actual increase from previously pledged social housing builds was thirty-one social houses.




The increased funding for the health service is seen as positive. In particular, extra funding for mental health services of €35 million is certainly a step in the right direction.

The need for extra funding for primary and social care by addressed in Budget 2018 is positive and should ensure more people in need of vital healthcare services get the treatment they need.



Child Protection Services

The announcement of an extra €40 million funding for TUSLA can help to develop, support, promote the protection of welfare for children. The over 3,000 children now homeless in Ireland, TUSLA along with a number of other organisations can help alleviate this harrowing issue  by funding out of hours services and the employment of extra staff.


The Charities VAT Compensation Scheme

From 1 January 2018 the Charities VAT Compensation Scheme will take effect. This scheme entitles charities to reclaim VAT based on the level of non-public funding they receive. The total amount of claims in a year is capped at €5 million and claims valued below €500 will not qualify. In order for charities to avail of the scheme they must be registered with the Charity Regulator, have tax clearance and provide and provided audited accounts for the year in question.  

Over the coming year it will be interesting to see how significant an impact this budget will have. It will be the litmus test to reveal how seriously the government are taking the need to increase the services and protection of members in Irish society in need of assistance that is supplied by the charity and not-for-profit sectors.