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The feminisation of homelessness: Ireland has far more homeless women than Europe

New research shows that almost 50% of homeless people in Dublin are women.

Homeless begging presents a number of specific policy challenges.
Homeless begging presents a number of specific policy challenges.
Image: RollingNews.ie/SamBoal

WOMEN MAKE UP a far higher percentage of the homeless population in Ireland compared to other European countries, according to new research.

The research by Trinity College Dublin shows that 42% of the homeless people in Ireland are women, rising to 47% in Dublin.

In Europe, the rate is much lower where women typically account for between 20% and 33% of the homeless population.

The research also identified a number of specific causes and results of the increasing  ”feminisation of homelessness” in Ireland.

It found that homeless women are less likely to be counted as homeless and can therefore be ignored in policy initiatives.

Homeless women are undercounted because they are more likely to occupy “hidden homeless” spaces such as living with family members, friends or acquaintances.

A by-product of this is that the majority of women who are homeless remain so for longer than two years and are counted as being long-term homeless.

Another consequence of increasing homelessness among women is entire families becoming homeless. The research found that 66% of homeless families in Ireland are headed by lone parents, most of whom are women.

“These women are young (in their 20s or 30s), typically have one or two children and are parenting alone; a majority became homeless following the loss of private rented housing, ” the research suggests.

The link between domestic violence and homelessness is also teased out further in the research and notes that such violence can force women from their homes. Alternatively they are forced to remain in abusive situations because of difficulty accessing homeless supports.

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The research is titled Women’s Homelessness in Europe and is published by TCD’s School of Social Work and Social Policy.

Co-editor of the research Dr Paula Mayock says more focus needs to be placed on the specific challenges faced by homeless women.

“In Ireland, policy responses to homelessness lack gender sensitivity and models of service provision are primarily oriented towards the needs of homeless men,” she says.

Existing homelessness services remain stubbornly focused on responding only to the most urgent and basic needs of women through the provision of short- or medium term accommodation rather than on the provision of permanent housing.

Read: ‘A crisis of unprecedented scale’: How will the government end family homelessness? > 

Read: ‘The Taoiseach and Housing Minister really need to see this film’ >

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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