Let’s be #EachforEqual for women who are homeless

Author: Fay White

Last year on International Women’s Day, Focus Ireland wrote about the increased rates of female homelessness in Ireland. In the space of a year, the situation for homeless women in Ireland has only gotten worse. In this blog post, Fay White from the Advocacy Team writes about the role we all have to play in fighting for the rights of women who are homeless in Ireland.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #EachforEqual. We are challenged this Sunday 8th of March 2020 to recognise our part in ‘Collective Individualism’, recognising that we all have a part to play in creating a more equal society and world. In celebrating the achievements of the women who contribute to Irish society, we must not lose sight of the strong, resilient women who are in emergency accommodation, living in domestic violence refuges with no idea of where to go next, living in overcrowded and unsafe conditions and the many more who live day to day in fear of losing their private rented accommodation.

The Unspoken Impacts

The average life expectancy of a woman in Ireland today is 84, but the average age of death for a single homeless woman in Dublin is just 38.

Dr Clíona Ní Cheallaigh, consultant in inclusion health at St James’s Hospital, recently spoke about the social exclusion that homeless women experience, and how this can impact on their health. Particularly for homeless women who are mothers, they face significant barriers to being supported emotionally and physically and reducing the isolation they can experience in emergency accommodation.

Women who are parenting on their own in emergency accommodation are often subject to strict rules as some emergency accommodation for families does not permit visitors. The mental toll of this social exclusion and isolation can have devastating impacts for some women. In December 2019 the mother of a young woman who was found dead in her emergency accommodation in 2018 spoke out about the effects that the isolation of not being allowed to have visitors after an extended period of homelessness had on her daughter.

In some cases, new mothers who are homeless are being discharged from hospital with their new-borns into one night only emergency accommodation. The Mercy Law Resource Centre published a report into the practical experiences that homeless families were going through and have reported several cases of new mothers being discharged from hospital with their new-borns into one night only emergency accommodation. One night only accommodation is the most insecure form of emergency accommodation and this means that new mothers and their babies must leave the accommodation in the morning and cannot return until the evening. An equal society is not one which leaves women recovering from giving birth to roam the streets during the day with their new born babies. One night only accommodation is a regressive and dehumanising policy which deprives women and families of their basic right to shelter and as long as this is in place we cannot count our society as being even close to equal.

In some cases, new mothers who are homeless are being discharged from hospital with their new-borns into one night only emergency accommodation

Representation of Women in Politics

Homelessness is the result of bad policies and real change and equality needs to come from the policy-makers whose decisions in government affect us all. We know from Focus Ireland research that in Dublin almost two-thirds of homeless families are headed by lone parents, and almost all of these are women. The issue of family homelessness is a women’s issue and the policies necessary to address this issue need to take the lives of women who are mothers and primary carers of their children into account. However, looking at the structure of the government elected from the General Election, just 36 of the 160 TDs elected to the Dáil are women. There are 12 constituencies in the country which have no women to represent them. The National Women’s Council ran an event on female participation in politics to celebrate International Women’s Day, in which our elected female TDs gave their opinions on the issue. Holly Cairns from the Social Democrats was elected and now stands as the only women in Cork elected to the Dáil. Holly spoke at the event saying:

“We can’t actually govern a society that promotes equality if it doesn’t exist within our government,”

Focus Ireland is proud to have supported over 15,000 people last year. Many of these were women; resilient women who spend so much time caring for other people that there is no time left to care for themselves. This International Women’s Day, let us not forget about the women carrying the mental and physical load of being homeless and push for a society which values all of its citizens.


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Further Reading

Focus Blog

What can the cost of homelessness tell us about solving it?

Today we published the latest edition in our ‘Focus on Homelessness’ series looking at public expenditure on services for households experiencing homelessness (available here).

Shining a spotlight on women’s homelessness this #IWD2023

On International Women’s Day 2023, Focus Ireland reflects on the current state of women’s homelessness in Ireland and highlights the importance of developing services and policy responses that respond better to the unique needs and experiences of women. This is even more urgent than ever as figures show a 49% rise in the number of women homeless in the last two years.

The winter eviction ban and homelessness: early evidence

The Government’s hasty introduction of a Winter Eviction Ban has failed to halt the rise in the total number of individuals in homelessness so far. The November 2022 homeless figures are the first to reflect the impact of the ban, which came into force at the start of the month but, rather than the decrease that some had predicted, they showed a further increase of 145 to yet another new record level.

An international perspective on Irish homelessness policy

‘From Rebuilding Ireland to Housing for All: international and Irish lessons for tackling homelessness’ was launched in September this year, receiving widespread positive coverage. Here we asked the lead researcher, Professor Nicholas Pleace of York University,  to write a guest blog, setting out the main conclusions from the project.

Causes of Family Homelessness in the Dublin Region during the Covid-19 Pandemic

While Covid-19 supended life as know it in 2020, this global disaster has been slowly but surely subsiding. With the roll-out of new vaccines, economies, and societies, have reopened. However, one of the more problematic issues pre-Covid, the use of emergency accommodation to house people experiencing homelessness, is again being used at a much higher rate in the last year.

Why are the numbers of people homeless at record level and what can be done to stop further increases?

With homelessness reaching a new record level in July, this blog looks at why homelessness has risen by 30% in the last year and what immediate and long-term actions must be taken now if we are to stop homeless from rising further.

Solidarity with Young People, Challenging Youth Homelessness: Focus Ireland Youth Services and Advocacy

In recognition of UN International Youth Day, this blog will highlight the risks faced by certain young people in terms of homelessness and housing insecurity, and the supports and services Focus Ireland is providing to address them.

Understanding housing inequalities: The disproportionate risk of homelessness facing migrants living in Ireland

March 2022 saw a sharp rise in the proportion of people with European Union or European Economic Area (EU/EEA) citizenship newly presenting to homeless services, according to figures reported by the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE). The increase sparked media speculation concerning the causes of this, the role played by migration, and the implications of this apparent trend for homeless services and the housing sector in general. However, the most recent DRHE Monthly Report to Dublin City Councillors on Homelessness shows that the proportion of new presentations from persons with EU/EEA citizenship markedly fell to a more typical level in April.

Welcome decrease in rough sleeping as adult-only homelessness at record level in Dublin

There was a welcomed slight decrease in the number of individuals found rough sleeping in Dublin in Spring 2022 according to figures published by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) last week . The Official Spring Count of people sleeping rough in the Dublin Region was carried out over the week March 28th – April 3rd and identified a total of 91 individuals confirmed as rough sleeping during the week.

Housing should be at the heart of new Domestic Violence Strategy

Housing and homelessness was one of the key issues of the recent election. In this blog post, Communications Officer Conor Culkin outlines some of the reasons why it mattered so much to the Irish electorate.

The double trauma of Domestic violence and family homelessness – and the route out

Focus Ireland has recently launched it's Domestic Violence and Family Homelessness Report. This blog will look at the key findings and recommendations from this qualitative research.

Single adult homelessness continues to rise despite pandemic decreases

During 2020 we saw the largest recorded annual fall in homelessness to date, with the number of people in emergency homeless accommodation falling by a massive 2,000 between January and December.

“The queer community is strong, supportive and inclusive, especially in the case of adversity”

In September Focus Ireland launched a significant research report entitled: A Qualitative Study of LGBTQI+ Youth Homelessness in Ireland.

Homeless Figures and the Impact of COVID-19

The third volume of our ‘Focus on Homelessness’ (October 2020) report presents data covering the first six months of the 2020, providing the first insight into the impact of the Covid-19 ‘lockdown’ period on homelessness.

Review of 7 years of spending on homelessness shows it’s time to change

In the first Special Edition of our Focus on Homelessness series, we are looking at Expenditure on Services for Households Experiencing Homelessness. In this blog post, Director of Advocacy Mike Allen outlines why we need a deeper understanding of this, and how this Edition does this.

Why we need an inclusive High Road Covid-Era Back to Work Strategy

In the space of just a few weeks, Covid-19 has fundamentally reconfigured the relationship between welfare and work in Ireland. In this blog post, Dr Mary Murphy, Senior Lecturer at Maynooth University, examines why we need an inclusive high road back to work strategy as we transition out of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Covid-19 and building a society where we can all have a home to stay put in

The Covid-19 pandemic puts people who are homeless at risk disproportionate risk – not only are they more likely to have underlying health issues, they are unable to follow the key recommendations –wash your hands regularly, stay at home and keep a ‘social distance’ from other people.

Let’s be #EachforEqual for women who are homeless

Last year on International Women’s Day, Focus Ireland wrote about the increased rates of female homelessness in Ireland. In the space of a year, the situation for homeless women in Ireland has only gotten worse.

Understanding the December 2019 homeless figures – Part 1

Having access to accurate numbers is key to informing policy and services responses designed to tackle homelessness. It is equally vital to have the information behind the numbers to be able to clearly understand trends as they develop.