Researching and Responding to Homelessness

16 Nov 2021

On 16 November the ISS21 Poverties, Social Justice & Inequalities Research Cluster hosted a seminar on the issue of homelessness in Ireland with researchers from the School of Applied Social Studies and guest speaker Fr Peter McVerry.

Presenters Joe Finnerty, Dr Margaret Buckley and Dr Mark Cullinane reported on research which they undertook with the Simon Community, a leading Irish homeless service provider, from March 2020 to August 2021. The study explored the experiences of Simon Community service users during the COVID-19 pandemic and the organisation's response to four waves of COVID-19. The findings of the research were published in three reports, accessible here.

Peter McVerry considered the issue of homelessness in the wider context of the housing crisis, which currently affects all three sectors: privately owned, rental and social housing. He argued that problems in one sector have a knock-on effect on the others, for example the government's failure to build social housing is putting further pressure on the private rental sector. He also noted changing trends in homelessness - whereas in the past it was an issue which largely affected single young people, now increasing numbers of families are becoming homeless. Looking to the future, there is a risk that people who rented all their lives - because they could not afford to buy - will become homeless in old age when they can no longer keep up with rising rents.   

The seminar was chaired by Dr Angela Flynn, convenor of the ISS21 Poverties, Social Justice and Inequalities Research Cluster.  

A recording of the seminar is available here


Fr Peter McVerry founded a charity to tackle homelessness in Dublin in the early 1980s. Originally called the Arrupe Society, it was later renamed the Peter McVerry Trust. Over the last 25 years this charity has become one of the country’s largest organisations responding to the issue of homelessness: in 2017 the charity worked with over 4,900 vulnerable youths. Peter has written widely on issues relating to young homeless people such as accommodation, drugs, juvenile justice, the Gardaí, prisons, and education. 

Joe Finnerty is Course Director of the Higher Diploma in Social Policy in the School of Applied Social Studies, UCC. His research interests include: the causes and solutions to the different varieties of homelessness; the evolution of housing tenure systems; housing as a human right; precarity in the private rented sector; eliminationism in social policy; and the role of indicators in addressing social problems. 

Mark Cullinane is a postdoctoral researcher in the School of Applied Social Studies, UCC. He has contributed to a number of housing-related research projects on topics including an evaluation of an area-based urban regeneration programme in Cork, and a longitudinal study around quality of life and change in social housing neighbourhoods. 

Margaret Buckley is a lecturer in Social Policy in the School of Applied Social Studies, UCC. Her research includes an evaluation of Cloyne Diocesan Youth Services Mobile Garda Youth Diversion Project, a participatory research project on the housing preferences of older people in rural Ireland, and research examining intergenerational use of homeless services.


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