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Dublin: 12 °C Monday 22 April, 2019

Analysis of homelessness rates in other countries vs Ireland

A brief look at homelessness rates in other countries.

THE HOUSING DEPARTMENT provided with a number of links to homelessness levels in different countries, as compared to Ireland. will deal with each country below.


On 30 June 2017 England revealed that it had 78,180 households residing in temporary accommodation.

This “household” figure can be further broken down into individuals, making the true figure higher.

However, England categorises homeless people differently to Ireland. A household must apply to be homeless there, and a decision is made if they fulfil a number of specific criteria.

According to UK NGO Shelter, this includes women and children leaving their home due to domestic violence or if you’re living in overcrowded conditions.

In Ireland, you may not be considered homeless for the above reasons.

A local council in the UK can also decide you are intentionally homeless, and therefore may not be eligible for long-term housing.

As well as this, according to the UK government, people awaiting a decision on their homelessness application, people who have been refused but have found nowhere else to go and people awaiting a decision on their application are all included in the above temporary accommodation figures.

This calls into question a direct comparison with Ireland’s own figures.


In Scotland, as of March 2017, there 10,873 households in temporary accommodation.

For reasons outlined above it is difficult to directly compare these figures with Ireland’s figures.


Homelessness in France is a significant social issue, affecting tens of thousands of people, and is at its worst in urban centres like Paris.

Charity estimates put 141,000 individuals living without accommodation and a further 38,000 accommodated temporarily in hotels.

However, without a standardised form of government measurement direct comparison with Ireland’s own figures should not be made.


Homelessness in Germany is also a significant social issue.

In 2014, there were an estimated 335,000 homeless persons in Germany.

Again, issues of standardised measuring apply. Germany categorises people sofa surfing with friends and family, or living in unconventional dwellings, as homeless. Ireland does not.

Therefore a direct comparison with Ireland’s own figures should not be made.


There is no ongoing data collection on homelessness at national level in Austria.

Figures from charities show the number increasing in recent years, especially with an influx of non-EU migrants to the country.

Without any national figures, a direct comparison with Ireland’s own figures should not be made.

The Netherlands

Statistics from the Netherlands showed an estimated 31,000 people homeless in the country in 2016.

As The Netherlands’ method of categorising homeless people does not square with Ireland’s (people sofa surfing with friends and family are included, for example), direct comparison should be avoided.


Estimates of homelessness in Sweden put the figure at 34,000 in 2011.

Sweden employs a much larger definition homelessness than Ireland, a direct comparison should not be made.


Homelessness is a widespread social problem in the USA, and is prevalent in many of its cities.

Due to differences in categorisation and measurement of numbers (as well as scale and size of the country), direct comparison should not be made.

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About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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