Young homeless the fastest growing group among destitute

Figures indicate almost 700 young adults in emergency lodging last month

Young adults are now the fastest increasing age group in homelessness, the latest figures show.

Groups working with the homeless are calling for measures aimed at 18- to 24-year-olds whom they say are getting “trapped” in homelessness, describing them as “particularly vulnerable”.

Figures from the Department of Housing show there were 696 young adults in emergency accommodation in the State last month, a 9 per cent rise since January and a 20 per cent rise since December.

These increases since December compare with a 12 per cent rise in the number of 25- to 44-year-olds (now 2,488), a 17 per cent increase in 45- to 64-year-olds (now 886) and a 5 per cent decrease in the number aged 65 and over (82) who are homeless.


Of the national total last month,there were 492 homeless young adults in Dublin.

Groups say the numbers of 18- to 24-year-olds effectively homeless but hidden are likely to be far higher as this group is more likely to have such options “couch-surfing” and sleeping on friends’ floors than older cohorts.


Fr Peter McVerry, who has worked with young homeless people in Dublin for several decades, says not only are more young people coming into homelessness but they are more vulnerable to getting “stuck” in it.

“Some are leaving State care. Some are leaving home because of family breakdown. They are often in very difficult circumstances,” he says. “Then they are getting trapped because they are only entitled to €100 a week.”

Jobseekers’ allowance for 18- and 19-year-olds was cut to €100 in 2009, a reduction which was extended to 18- to 24-year-olds in 2010. The rate for 25-year-olds is €144, while the full rate, for jobseekers over 25 is €188.

Pay rent

“If you are homeless on €100 a week you are stuck. You cannot pay rent, pay bills, pay for food and clothes on that,” said Fr McVerry.

He said many are unskilled and have difficulty getting even minimum wage jobs.

Roughan McNamara, advocacy manager with Focus Ireland, is calling for this group of homeless to be "ring-fenced and given the full rate of social welfare". "They also need targeted supports with accessing training schemes and employment. They are a particularly vulnerable group."

He said the impact of long periods in homelessness, often in hostels where there may be drugs and alcohol abuse, at such a young age could be long-term and devastating.

“Targeted support at this age can play a massive role in helping people to move on and avoid becoming trapped as homeless,” said Mr McNamara.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Social Protection said jobseeker services and training, accessible at Intreo offices, were open to any jobseeker, including the homeless.

The Minister, Leo Varadkar, said the cut to jobseekers' allowance for the under-26s was an issue he would examine in the context of the budget.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times