Homelessness can mean sleeping rough, staying in emergency hostels or shelters, staying in temporary bed and breakfast accommodation or staying with friends and relatives when there is nowhere else to go. Homelessness is all of these things. For people experiencing homelessness it is about a lack of security, a lack of belonging and often about being cold, sick and isolated.

The current economic climate means more people are at risk of homelessness than ever before with further cut backs in health, education, welfare services and training more people will become homeless and turn to the Simon Communities for support.

The Simon Community works to influence local and national government and lobby for change. We support the existing government commitments to tackle homelessness. We welcome the ‘Housing First’ approach. The Housing First/housing led approach will work so long as it avoids a ‘one size fits all’ approach, and embraces multiple exits from homelessness and a range of support models.

Simon is about believing in people; believing in the people who turn to the eight local Simon communities around the country every day; believing in the thousands of volunteers and Simon supporters, and believing that with the appropriate housing, care and support people can and do leave homelessness behind

People are struggling to find homes and to stay in the homes that they already have. Over 8,000 people remain trapped in emergency accommodation. Many thousands more are hidden homeless and at risk of homelessness. People urgently need safe, secure, affordable housing and support to remain in that housing for those who need it. Add your voice to theirs. Sign our petition. Demand the Government build more social and affordable housing.


Within months of his birth Alan was placed with his first foster family. Sadly his mother was an alcoholic and he’s never met his dad who was gone long before Alan was born. Alan didn’t meet his mother again until he was five, however she had no interest in getting to know her son or being part of his life but yet wouldn’t allow him to be adopted. So he remained in foster care.


How does it happen? What causes homelessness?

There are many reasons why a person becomes homeless; in Simon we deal with them all working with up to 5,000 people every year. Generally the experiences that lead to homelessness are underpinned by poverty and structural inequality. Causes tend to be divided into the following:


These can include poverty, unemployment, and lack of good quality, affordable housing. With a high unemployment rate, more and more people are now experiencing poverty and it is becoming more difficult for people to get out of poverty. Also, with no social housing being built there is a shortage of affordable housing for people on little or no income.


People who have lived in foster care and young people leaving care are at high risk of becoming homeless. Also people leaving prison or mental health institutions with nowhere to go to on their release/discharge can end up homeless. Services need to ensure that when people are leaving institutional care that they have a place to go.


This can include an abusive relationship or family breakdown. Either way, one or more people may need to leave the home and may have nowhere to go. Death in a family can also be a cause of homelessness as the person may not be able to afford accommodation on one income.


This can include mental illness, learning difficulties, problematic alcohol or/and drug use. . If a person has one or more of these problems, they may find it difficult to manage the home they are in or it may lead to other problems such as losing job and inability to pay mortgage/rent or relationship breakdown and have to leave the home.

Generally it is a combination of these factors that result in a person becoming homeless. For example, if someone lost their job and their relationship broke down, they may have to leave the family home but not be able to afford to rent alternative accommodation.

What do the numbers look like? Research & Reports

There are 7,167 people in emergency accommodation and many thousand more without a place to call home. Yet we know that there are 198,358 empty homes around the country. Almost 13% of total housing stock is vacant, twice the level expected in a functioning housing market. In the short term, focusing on this ‘low hanging fruit’ offers significant and obvious opportunities to provide permanent homes for people who urgently need them.

The Government has committed in Rebuilding Ireland: Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness to developing an overall National Vacant Housing Re-use Strategy, due out in the second quarter of 2017. The Simon Communities have developed a 10 Point Empty Homes Plan,Empty Homes: Unlocking Solutions to the Housing and Homelessness Crisis with a range of solutions that we believe should be included in this Strategy.

Simon Communities in Ireland March 2017 Empty Homes – Unlocking solutions to the housing and homeless crisis 3 Introduction Preliminary figures from the 2016 census reveal a national vacant housing stock of 198,358 housing units excluding holiday homes and derelict buildings.



People homeless in June 2017
Year on year percentage increase
Percentage of housing stock vacant


Single people homeless in June 2017
Families homeless in June 2017
Children homeless in June 2017

Over 7,167 people were trapped in emergency accommodation in January 2016, a year on year increase of 25% according to the most recent Homelessness Report published by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (DHPCLG). 1 In light of these homelessness figures, the preliminary Census findings make for startling reading. The Government has committed in Rebuilding Ireland: Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness (Action Plan) to develop an overall national vacant housing re-use strategy utilising Census 2016 data. As part of this strategy the Action Plan contains a number of commitments regarding initiatives to reduce overall vacancy rates in the national public and private housing stock. In the short term, focusing on the ‘low hanging fruit’, vacant housing offers significant opportunities to provide permanent homes for those that need them most urgently.

In the longer term we must ensure the scale of the current housing and homelessness crisis is not repeated. To do so, the building and delivery of sustainable social and affordable housing output is vital combined with new measures to reduce vacancy levels to guarantee a functioning and effective social and private housing stock. It is critical that any measures introduced in this regard are reasonable, targeted, and that relationships required for their implementation are managed sensitively allowing for the balancing of parties respective rights and needs where possible. Urgent and sustained action is required to address dysfunctional levels of vacancy in Irish housing stock to unlock solutions to the current housing and homelessness crisis. To this end the Simon Communities in Ireland offer a broad ranging 10 point plan to address the many underlying issues that have given rise to elevated vacancy rates and the subsequent impact on housing availability across all housing sectors.

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