Helping the Homeless: Ireland vs. U.S.

There’s no question that within the last five or so years, the homeless population in Ireland has significantly increased. People in less than ideal conditions can be seen while walking down the streets of Dublin. Although unemployment in Ireland is nothing new, as with any country, there has been a noticeable increase in that population. “Focus Ireland” found that since 2007, the total homeless population has more than tripled. It seems that in the United states however, the opposite is occurring. Since the same year (2007), the homeless population in the U.S. has decreased by roughly 15% (which is almost 100,000 individuals). Whether a countries homeless population is on the rise or decline, there will always be some amount of homeless. So, the question remains: What does each country do to support this continuous population?

In Ireland, there are things such as soup runs and emergency sleeping accommodations for rough sleepers (people physically sleeping on the streets). For the most part, there are places to get some food and possibly a place to stay. These however are very short-term solutions. In order to try and decrease the population and significantly help those who need it, there are programs such as the Supplementary Welfare Allowance. People can apply by filling out a claim, and if they meet certain criteria, may be eligible for a weekly installment. Generally, those who qualify can expect anything from €100- €200 depending on age and number of dependents (citizensinformation.ie).

In addition to the Supplementary Welfare Allowance, Irish citizens with no job can apply for Social Welfare. Social Welfare includes State Pension, Widow’s/Widower’s/Surviving Civil Partner’s, Disablement Benefit, Jobseeker’s/Illness/Health & Safety/Injury Benefit, Maternity/Adoptive Benefit/ Paternity and Death Benefit (welfare.ie). Among these, there are many more categories for people to fit under. Not unlike Supplementary Welfare Allowance, most plans cover someone for about €100- €200 a week. Even with the weekly income, unless help is given through job seeking aid and other resources, finding a home is near impossible. Due to the ever-rising prices in the housing industry, the already tough task of finding housing is getting even harder.

In the United States, unemployment and homeless programs can very wildly by state. Most programs in the United states focus on unemployment and wrap the homeless population in that category. States in the U.S. set a maximum value on payments as well as a maximum number of weeks those payments are available. For example, Massachusetts has one of the highest amounts in both; 769 USD for 30 weeks. While a more central state like Mississippi only has a max weekly allowance of 235 USD for 26 weeks. Compared to other countries such as Ireland, the maximum amount of help given in the U.S. is significantly higher. Despite this, the average weekly allowance stays around 250 USD.

It may be easier for U.S. citizens to find housing and get into better living conditions however. This is due to the cost of living in both countries. “Cost of living in Ireland is 4.69% higher than in United States (aggregate data for all cities, rent is not taken into account). Rent in Ireland is 7.47% higher than in United States (average data for all cities).” (numbeo.com).

Comparatively, the U.S. has a higher percentage of homeless people than Ireland does. But no matter the amount of people affected, the way in which each country deals with it is relatively the same. People can qualify for a weekly allowance, there may be places to get food and there is short term emergency housing. There’s no visible attempt to solve the problem however. For this, we must look at Finland. In order to almost completely get rid of extreme poverty and homelessness, Finland basically gives everyone “permanent housing”. In short, “Tenants pay rent and are entitled to receive housing benefits. Depending on their income, they may contribute to the cost of the services. The rest is covered by the municipalities. They provide the support themselves or buy support from other service providers… Stable living conditions enable the use of mainstream services instead of using expensive emergency services.” (theguardian.com, Dawn Foster). There may be a higher initial cast, but Finland has found that it will save everyone money in the long run.

Ireland and the United States both implement systems in order to help their struggling citizens. For some it’s hard to get help, for others the help isn’t enough. Weekly installments can be helpful, and in some cases, job seeking resources are life savers. Both countries have their similarities as well as differences in their systems, yet the issue is still prominent. A system such as Finland’s may not work in either countries, but it might be something to look at.

 

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