Growing number of migrants entering Dublin homeless services

Families and individuals who do not qualify for housing supports often struggle to leave emergency accommodation, say agencies

Half of the families and single adults becoming homeless in Dublin in recent months have been migrants, with officials concerned that some in this vulnerable group are left without an “exit plan” once they enter emergency accommodation.

Families from EU countries accounted for about 7 per cent of the total number in Dublin homeless accommodation in 2016 but this increased to close to 30 per cent last year, said Mary Hayes, director of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE), which co-ordinates State homeless services across the capital.

She said the last five years had seen a “very obvious” increase in the number of families from other EU countries entering homeless services.

This would sometimes include families “coming directly to you from the airport” to present as homeless, Ms Hayes said.


“There are not huge numbers, it can be a decent percentage of the overall new presentations,” she said.

In general migrants are “over-represented” in the homeless population, she said, as they were “more vulnerable” to difficult conditions in the private rental market.

About half of the families and single adults who became homeless in Dublin in the first five months of this year were not Irish citizens. In May, 28 per cent of single adults who became homeless in Dublin were from elsewhere in the EU, with 22 per cent from outside the EU.

Ms Hayes said the “biggest concern” was that some homeless EU citizens did not qualify for supports such as the Housing Assistance Payment (Hap), often because they were not employed. This meant they had no “exit plan” for leaving emergency accommodation, she said.

“We do worry about families who have been here for some time, and who are not going to qualify,” she said.

In those cases, she said, people were supported to find employment, after which they could qualify for Hap to secure housing in the private rental market. In other instances people were encouraged to return to their home countries.

Mike Allen, head of advocacy at homeless charity Focus Ireland, said people from other EU countries becoming stuck in emergency accommodation, as they were not entitled to housing supports, was “definitely an issue”. He said migrants who were renting had “no safety net” if their landlord decided to sell the property, leaving them at greater risk of becoming homeless.

Overall, there are more than 10,000 people recorded as homeless in the State, with about 7,400 of those in Dublin. The number of people living in emergency accommodation fell sharply at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, with evictions banned for a period, before rising again in recent months.

Mr Allen said homeless services would likely be affected by wider pressures on the State’s efforts to house Ukrainian refugees and other asylum seekers. “We’re ultimately going for the same housing, the same emergency accommodation, so the pressure is building, that is going to be challenging,” he said.

The State has resorted to housing some Ukrainian refugees and asylum seekers in tented accommodation, with available emergency housing in hotels and elsewhere reaching capacity in recent weeks.

Ms Hayes said she felt the response had reached a “crisis point”, but said officials and agencies would “work through” the pressures.

There had been a “relentless” increase in the numbers of single adults becoming homeless, Ms Hayes said. Due to the shortage of affordable one-bed properties, the State agency was considering plans to move groups of single people out of homeless hostels into rental tenancies together, she said.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times