End Homelessness 

END HOMELESSNESS – Childhood is a time for children to be in school, to learn and grow in confidence. It is a time to play and develop friendships, hobbies and memories. We all get to experience just one childhood, it is the duty of all adults to protect that childhood to ensure children reach their full potential.

For children who experience homelessness, their childhood is put in jeopardy. Research shows they are more likely to have developmental delay, health problems and go hungry. They experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, and behaviour disorders. Their education suffers and often times they lose important relationships with friends and neighbours. In this lesson, learn about the root causes of homelessness and how to take action in support of ending homelessness.

In Ireland, 


children are homeless and living in emergency accommodation.

Learning Objectives

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the social contract, why it exists and its importance to society.
  2. Apply a rights based approach to understanding homelessness.
  3. Identify the root causes of homelessness in Ireland and its impact.

Curriculum Connections


Statements of Learning

SOL 7: The student values what it means to be an active citizen, with rights and responsibilities in local and wider contexts.  

SOL 9: The student understands the origin and impacts of social, economic, and environmental aspects of the world around her/him.  

SOL 11: The student takes action to safeguard and promote her/his wellbeing and that of others  

SOL 23: Brings an idea from conception to realisation  

JC WELLBEING – This programme works on achieving the following Well-being indicators. Responsible – I take action to protect and promote my wellbeing and that of others Connected – I feel connected to my school, my friends, my community and the wider world. I appreciate that my actions and interactions impact on my own wellbeing and that of others, in local and global contexts. Respected – I feel that I am listened to and valued. I have positive relationships with my friends, my peers and my teachers. I show care and respect for others.

JC CSPE Rights and Responsibilities, Human Dignity and Homelessness, Democracy and Constitution

JC SPHE Strand 2 L0 2.3   


SC ECONOMICS – Strand 1 What is economics about?, Strand 2 How are economic decisions made?, 3 What can markets do?, and 4 What is the relationship between policy and economic performance?

SC POLITICS & SOCIETY  Strand 1 Power and decision-making   Strand 2 Active Citizenship  Strand 3 Human rights and responsibilities   




Teaching Notes

Sensitive Issue –  This topic can be upsetting and could have direct impact on participants, who might be or have experience of homelessness or who might be connected to someone who has. Be aware when speaking that homelessness is not about others, but is about us. Acknowledge this with the group and ensure there is someone people can speak with if they are upset.



Rights most impacted by homelessness.

Article 2  Children should be protected from all forms of discrimination. There should not be inequalities in basic living standards. This includes discrimination on the basis of their (or their parents’) status or property.

Article 4  Public bodies should use the maximum available resources to ensure that all children have an adequate standard of living.

Article 26  Children have a right to receive assistance through social benefits, depending on the circumstances of their families.

Article 27  The State should ensure that every child has a standard of living which is adequate to allow them to develop fully – physically, mentally, spiritually, morally and socially. Whilst recognising the responsibilities that parents have, governments must ensure that they provide assistance to families to ensure that children’s essential needs are met – in particular, nutrition, clothing and housing.


Social Contract

Discussion: Define society and the purpose of a social contract. Describe the institutions that govern our society from the UN at a global level to the Taoiseach and Oireachtas at a national level and town councils and organisations at a local level.

Activity: Split the participants in to three groups or “societies”.  Ask the groups to discuss what type of a society they would like to live in and what rules, principles or rights they would define. Groups should draft their constitution.

Feedback: Amalgamate the responses in to one document. Ask participants if there are any rights that stand out that might be different given the issues that are facing society today (rights to a future, sustainable planet, voting rights, new identity rights)? Ask participants how they made decisions as a group? Was it democratic, inclusive or did people take over the discussion?

Poverty not only hurts the individual affected; it hurts communities, the economy and society. At present, there is no explicit right to housing in the Constitution or in Irish law. The Constitutional Convention recommended in February 2014 that the Constitution should be amended to include economic, social and cultural rights, including a specific right to housing, but no decision has yet been made on this recommendation.

A strengthening of the right to housing in the Constitution and strict limits on how long a family spends in emergency accommodation are among the recommendations made by the Oireachtas Committee on Children. In a report on homelessness.

Extensions: Compare the new document with the Irish Constitution and or the first Democratic Programme. Discuss the similarities and differences and compare and contrast the different ways children were treated in the two documents. Analyse the state of the economy in 1919, 1937 and today.

Rights versus Charity

Activity: This activity helps participants understand the need for rights as opposed to relying on charity and handouts. Take a bag of supplies that can be divided among the group (individually wrapped Fair Trade sweets like Maltesers or jellies work well) .

1. Hand out a large amount of sweets or other type of object to 3 participants
2. Hand select 7 people to come and get sweets for themselves.
3. Ask half of the participants to come up and get sweets.
4. If there are any left offer the rest of the room to get the sweets and to sit back down
5. Ask those who did not get sweets to go and ask those that have them to share.

Questions to ask participants:

  • Who were given sweets? Does this represent a certain group of people in our society? (inherited wealth)
  • Those that were hand selected, who do they represent in our society? (privileged classes, those that have access wealth, or a head start in life)
  • The middle group, who do you represent. (average person, without privilege)
  • The last group, who do you represent? (disadvantaged) Was there much left for you? How did it feel asking for others to share? Were you disempowered? Did you feel you should have an equal right to the sweets?
  • How did those who had sweets feel about being asked. Did you feel guilty that you had more? Would you have shared, if others were not visible and people didn’t know you were asked?
  • Who in society would be the most vulnerable and unable to get to the sweets in time?
  • Ask participants to think about this globally and ask which group they belong to?

This is why we create a rights-based society and not a society based on charity?

Root Causes of Homelessness

Discussion: Ask participants for the reasons people become homeless

  • Lack of affordable housing
  • Addiction issues
  • Mental health
  • Domestic violence
  • Runaway
  • Poverty
  • Leaving care

Scenarios: Ask for two volunteers to role play the difficulties facing people who are made homeless. Provide two students with Eoin and Siobhan scenario sheets. Ask the volunteer to read out their scenario and decide where they will go for help. Find 3-4 audience members who can give responses to Siobhan or Eoin.

Download Scenarios SiobhanEoin

Discussion: What has been lost in these scenarios? Ask participants to write on a post it words that describe what home means to them and what they would miss if they had to leave their home. Conclude by showing participants this short video.


Discussion: Divide the group in to small discussion groups. Ask participants to discuss actions that could be taken by the group to tackle the issue. Suggest actions could be taken in school, the community or politically.

  • Organise an event, like a Big Sleep Out. Don’t forget to get publicity. Here is a sample press release you could write
  •  A survey in 2o19 found 1 in 4 primary schools have homeless pupils. Discuss with your principal or student council how the school can best meet the needs of students/families who find themselves homeless or are concerned they might. Here are two guides to help you.  Focus Ireland and the INTO, Tusla.
  •  Get politically active and find out what ideas different political parties have to solve the problem. Invite them to your school to debate the issue or write a letter to your local TD asking them to take action on the issue.

Test your knowledge on

Kahoot Quiz

Global Goals for tackling Homelessness

SDG1  Eradicating poverty in all its forms

SDG3  Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages. Housing is a social determinant of health and homelessness is associated with ill-health and dramatically lower-than-average life expectancy.

SDG10  Reduce inequality within and among countries. This goal includes adopting fiscal and social policies that promotes greater equality.

SDG11  Making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. This goal includes providing safe, adequate housing for all.