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The Housing Act 1988 established a State obligation to arrange housing provision for homeless people. The Health Act 1953, containing vestiges of the Poor Law system, with an obligation to provide institutional care for those unable to help themselves, had been the only State obligation until that time.
The Act of 1988 did not place a obligation on housing authorities to directly provide accommodation or, indeed, any State agencies. As a result of this, the provision of accommodation for homeless people was undertaken by voluntary and charitable bodies, most of which are approved bodies under s 6 of the Housing Act 1992.
In May 2000, the Government published," The Homelessness – an Integrated Strategy Report"' which sought to develop an integrated State response to the many issues which affected homelessness. The core element of the Strategy was that each local authority would prepare a three-year “Action Plan” together with the local health board and voluntary organisations, coordinating the supplier/provider roles.
In Dublin, a Homeless Agency was established to co-ordinate the work of local authorities, health boards and other agencies.
In 2001, the Department of Health and Children published, "Youth Homeless Strategy (2001)", its goal:
"To reduce and if possible eliminate youth homelessness through preventative strategies and where a child becomes homeless to ensure that he/she benefits from a comprehensive range of services aimed at reintegrating him/her into his/ her community as quickly as possible."
In 2002, a Homelessness Prevention Strategy was launched by the Departments of Health, Justice, Education and Housing to prevent homelessness.
An examination of the housing strategies and homeless action plans created by Local Authorities in the report, Housing Access for All?” published in 2003 concluded that while the plans did achieve a relatively sophisticated understanding of the nature and complexity of the problems of homelessness, the policies for dealing with the problems were weakly stated or absent.
The Review of the Implementation of the Government’s Integrated and Preventative Homeless Strategies," by Fitzpatrick Economic Consultants (2006) pointed out that the range and quality of services for homeless people had increased substantially. Among its recommendations was the establishment of a coordinated funding mechanism for the disbursement of capital and current accommodation and care related costs and the development of a more formal funding procedure, to prioritise projects for funding.
The Homeless Agency
The most significant development in homelessness policy in Ireland has been the establishment and work of the Homelessness Agency in 2001. The Agency is responsible for the planning, co-ordination and administration of funding in relation to the provision of quality services to people who are homeless in the Dublin area, and for the development of responses to prevent homelessness.
The Agency has published a number of action plans which guide its work programme. See:
- Delivering Pathway to Home
- Dublin Joint Homelessness Consultative Forum
- Funding Allocations
- Housing First
It works in partnership with a range of voluntary and statutory agencies to implement the action plans and with all agencies to develop strategies to prevent homelessness from occurring.
However, the Review of Participation Structures Report by Courtney in 2005 found that “There is very little participation of homeless people themselves in the participation structures of the Homeless Agency.”
It has commissioned a number of consultants, including from the UK, to prepare policies, guidelines, standards, reviews and other reports on homelessness and homelessness services in the Dublin region. See here.
The Homeless Agency Report in 2008 – Evaluation of Homelessness Services, provided much needed clarification on the models of housing support which are provided in the UK.
See also The Homeless Agency (2008) Review of Finances and Expenditure for Homeless Services in Dublin.
The Way Home (2008)
The Way Home is the title of the strategy to address adult homelessness in Ireland, for the years 2008 to 2013. This Report points out that since 2000, over 620m has been provided for day-to-day accommodation and care running costs of homeless services, with annual current State funding at more than 90m.
The Vision of The Way Home Strategy is as follows:
“From 2010, long-term homelessness (i.e. the occupation of emergency accommodation for longer than 6 months) and the need for people to sleep rough will be eliminated throughout Ireland. The risk of a person becoming homeless will be minimised through effective preventative policies and services. When it does occur homelessness will be short term and people who are homeless will be assisted into appropriate long-term housing.”
The stated aims of the Strategy are to prevent homelessness, eliminate the need to sleep rough, eliminate long-term homelessness, meet long-term housing needs, ensure effective services for homeless people and better co- ordinate funding arrangements.
The Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government (DoEHLG), with appropriate input from the Cross Department Team on Homelessness and the National Homeless Consultative Committee, leads the development and implementation of measures to eliminate long-term homelessness.
At local level the Strategy is implemented by each local authority and HSE, in consultation with the Local Homeless Forum and other relevant local actors and completed within one year of the publication of the Strategy.
Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) 2009 – Homelessness Action Plans
HOUSING (MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS) ACT 2009 has codified the informal consultation arrangements set out in the various Strategies, as well as giving a legislative basis to homelessness action plans, and their implementation. Section 37(1) of the Act of 2009 provides that a housing authority shall, in respect of its administrative area, after a specified time adopt a “homelessness action plan” to address homelessness:
“(2) A homelessness action plan shall specify the measures proposed to be undertaken to address homelessness in the administrative area or administrative areas concerned by the housing authority or housing authorities, as the case may be, the Health Service Executive, specified bodies, or approved bodies or other bodies providing services to address homelessness or the performance of whose functions may affect or relate to the provision of such services, including but not necessarily limited to measures to achieve the following objectives—
(a) the prevention of homelessness,
(b) the reduction of homelessness in its extent or duration,
(c) the provision of services, including accommodation, to address the needs of homeless households,
(d) the provision of assistance under section 10(b)(i), as necessary, to persons who were formerly homeless, and
(e) the promotion of effective co-ordination of activities proposed to be undertaken by the bodies referred to in this subsection for the purposes of addressing homelessness in the administrative area or areas concerned”.
Census 2011 Results
The Central Statistics Office released on the September 6, 2012 a special census report on homeless persons in Ireland showing that 3,808 persons were either sleeping rough or in accommodation designated for the homeless on the night of April 10th 2011. Of these 2,539 were male and 1,269 were female.
Homeless people were identified based on where they were on Census Night rather than by self-identification, an approach agreed in advance by the major stakeholders. The report shows that 64 persons were sleeping rough on the night of Sunday April 10th, with a further 3,744 in accommodation for the homeless.
The full report is available on the CSO website at www.cso.ie/census.
Other Relevant Documents
Homelessness Policy Statement (pdf, 238 kb)
Homelessness Policy Statement - List of Indicators (doc, 13 kb)
Professor Eoin O'Sullivan's Housing Led Approach Report (pdf, 437 kb)
Homeless Strategy - National Implementation Plan (pdf, 203 kb)
Homelessness - An Integrated Strategy (pdf, 218 kb)
Homelessness - A Preventative Strategy (pdf, 90 kb)