McDonalds Combats Global PovertyFounded in 1955, McDonald’s is one of the largest fast-food companies in the world. Renowned for its burgers and fries, McDonald’s currently offers a variety of food options in 118 different countries. As a result, the company operates more than 38,000 restaurants, employs millions of people and garners billions of dollars in revenue every year. Considering the fast-food giant’s worldwide presence, it is in a unique position to help impoverished communities around the world. Recognizing this, McDonald’s combats global poverty in several ways.

5 Ways McDonald’s Combats Global Poverty

  1. McDonald’s is one of the top employers in the world. According to Forbes, McDonald’s currently employs more than 1.9 million people worldwide. The only employers that outrank McDonald’s are the U.S. Department of Defense (3.2 million employees), China’s People’s Liberation Army (2.3 million employees) and Walmart (2.1 million employees). McDonald’s gives people around the world an opportunity to earn a living, work toward advancement opportunities and escape poverty.
  2. McDonald’s prioritizes employee education and advancement. In 2018, Mcdonald’s expanded its Archways to Opportunity program, an education initiative available to “restaurant employees in 25 countries.” The program allows employees “the opportunity to graduate from college, earn a high school diploma, learn English as a second language, complete an apprenticeship and gain access to advising services.” In Australia alone, more than 48,000 certifications have been awarded as of April 30, 2021.
  3. McDonald’s joined the European Alliance for Apprenticeships. Along with several other companies, McDonald’s supports the European Alliance for Apprenticeship’s mission to “improve access to vocational training” throughout Europe. Apprenticeships are important because they allow young people to acquire practical job experience and on-the-job skills to increase their chances of employment. Overall, in Europe, McDonald’s and other companies committed “to offer 45,000 apprenticeships by 2025.” These apprenticeships will take place in Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the U.K.
  4. McDonald’s supports Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC). RMHC is a nonprofit organization that “creates, finds and supports programs that directly improve the health and well-being of children and their families.” RMHC runs 260 Chapters in 62 nations around the world. These programs assist families with ill children by providing free accommodation near the medical center so that families can afford to be present while their child receives medical care. Additionally, the nonprofit organization Meals From The Heart works closely with McDonald’s and RMHC to provide families with freshly cooked meals during their stay. Overall, RMHC aims to offer a housing option to families experiencing financial hardship due to child medical bills.
  5. McDonald’s donated food during the COVID-19 pandemic. McDonald’s partnered with organizations, including Food Donation Connection and the Global FoodBanking Network (GFN), to donate food surpluses to families in need around the world. For example, McDonald’s donated eggs, bread and milk to struggling families in Ireland, England, Germany and Italy. Additionally, McDonald’s donated 250,000 pounds worth of food to Canadian food banks and NGOs. The company also gave thousands of liters of milk to migrant workers in Singapore.

A Significant Impact

Overall, McDonald’s combats global poverty by financing and supporting education, housing and food aid programs around the world. Despite economic and financial challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the company’s support for communities abroad never weaned. McDonald’s continues to have a significant impact around the world by combating global poverty and helping those in need.

– Chloe Young
Photo: Flickr

child poverty in northern IrelandPrior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the official percentage of children in Northern Ireland living in relative poverty was 22%. Although this is slightly lower than the 2018/2019 estimate of 24%, the raw number this figure translates to is staggering: approximately 100,000 children are living in relative poverty. While child poverty in Northern Ireland was decreasing, the pandemic will likely spark a long-term rise. The Resolution Foundation estimates that an additional 13,000 children could fall into poverty within the next four years. Fortunately, the government and major nonprofit organizations are working to address this issue.

Key Government Steps

The government has taken steps to minimize the effects of the pandemic on child poverty in Northern Ireland. For starters, the Minister for Communities committed to continuing welfare mitigations from the beginning of the pandemic. Additionally, the department also announced the extension of the 2016-2019 Poverty Strategy to May 2022, allowing for more thorough, long-term engagement in addressing child poverty.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education adopted a “cash-first” approach for free school meals. This reduced the burden for impoverished families by ensuring their children received food at school. Additionally, the government helped thousands of children with a “£20 uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits.” This policy is part of the government’s ongoing support to local charities in Northern Ireland’s most impoverished neighborhoods.

Action for Children

Action for Children is a U.K. children’s charity aimed at helping Ireland’s most vulnerable children and adolescents. The charity’s widespread impact throughout the last year cannot be understated as it has supported more than 15,500 children and families. The charity has helped grow the Belfast fostering service and support children at risk of homelessness. Furthermore, it has been instrumental in providing mental health support outlets, helping to improve the emotional wellbeing of children suffering from the effects of poverty. The efforts of Action for Children positively impact children across the country.

Save the Children

Save the Children, a leading humanitarian aid organization for children, has also played an essential role in fighting child poverty in Northern Ireland. During the past year, in collaboration with local groups, the organization has provided vouchers that cover the costs of essential household items and food to help more than 3,900 children. Additionally, Save the Children has produced child poverty reports that include survey data and interviews with suffering families. The Northern Irish government is utilizing these reports to help it determine what anti-poverty policies to implement next.

Proposed Steps for Further Action

Save the Children outlined a list of recommendations in its 2021 report on child poverty in Northern Ireland. The report proposes that the government should take three key steps:

  • Strengthen the welfare mitigations package, including providing added packages for families that are not part of the two-child welfare limit.
  • Initiate the policies put forward by the Anti-Poverty Expert Advisory Panel for the Anti-Poverty Strategy.
  • Continue to support the £20 uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits by extending it beyond the current cut-off point, which is September 2021.

Moving forward, it is essential that the government take these recommendations and others into consideration. With continued efforts by the Northern Irish government and humanitarian organizations such as Action for Children and Save the Children, child poverty in Northern Ireland will hopefully decrease in the coming years, in spite of the pandemic.

– Gabriel Sylvan
Photo: Flickr

Youth homelessness in IrelandIreland has been working to reduce homelessness and improve emergency services for its disadvantaged citizens for years. Current structures and policies help the homeless but leave out the struggling youth. The forgotten young people of Ireland have been ignored by social housing programs and blocked from receiving full welfare payments. To end youth homelessness in Ireland, the government is looking at the gaps in policies that allow young people to slip into poverty.

The Problem

Youth homelessness in Ireland has increased by 90% in the last three years, leaving more than 850 people aged 18-24 without a place to call home. Just five years earlier, only 450 young adults were homeless, exemplifying the growing issue in Ireland. The Department of Housing Planning, Community and Local Government (DHPCLG) provides these statistics, but the data is incomplete.

In addition to these figures, there is also a prevalence of the “hidden homeless” among Irish youth. The hidden homeless include those couch surfing, squatting or residing anywhere that is not sustainable. Because these young homeless people are not utilizing state services or shelters, they are excluded from data on youth homelessness in Ireland.

In 2016, the number of young people still living at home with their parents increased by 19%, reflecting the rise in rent and lack of affordable housing available. However, children that come from broken, abusive or absent families have no one to care for them once they reach 18.

The Tusla Child and Family Agency cares for homeless or impoverished minors. However, just like parents, they have no legal responsibility to take care of the children after the age of 18. These policies neglect to account for transition periods, leaving young people alone the moment they reach legal adulthood.

The Cause of Youth Homelessness in Ireland

Currently, Ireland’s approach to its homeless situation is mostly emergency, reactive services. To reduce youth homelessness in Ireland, the focus must pivot to prevention and intervention for at-risk young people. The factors that force young people into homelessness often begin in their childhoods. They experience poverty, traumatic life events, family conflict and general instability from a young age and are not given the tools to transition successfully into adulthood.

Young people are at the bottom of the list to get accommodations in social housing. After being bounced around between social housing, emergency shelters and other temporary government accommodations, young people often give up on the system because they become tired of the repeated placement circuit. Landlords often reject young people due to a lack of finances and references or simply because they find young tenants undesirable. This age discrimination is one of the main causes of youth homelessness in Ireland.

The Consequences for Homeless Youth

Citizens younger than the age of 26 are not eligible for full welfare payments and can only receive reduced payments, if they receive anything. Stifling the financial welfare of people from such young age rather than offering support leads to long-term poverty and increased homelessness in the community. Two-thirds of young homeless people in Ireland reside in Dublin. Here, many living spaces are used as Airbnbs. As more short-term rentals pop up and crowd the city with tourists, more young citizens are forced to sleep on the streets.

A six-year study into youth homelessness in Ireland focused on 40 young people between the ages of 14 and 22. The majority of these participants came from situations where they experienced trauma and severe poverty, leading them to drop out of school early. More than half of the participants in the study reported they had tried heroin and have a criminal record, showing the severe consequences when disadvantaged young adults have no support system. Most of them had experienced homelessness by the age of 15, illustrating the need for early intervention in these tumultuous situations.

The Coalition to End Youth Homelessness

The Coalition to End Youth Homelessness in Ireland is comprised of 16 organizations and charities dedicated to getting young people off the streets. This issue has been forgotten for many years. Still, all of these organizations are stepping up to end the neglect of the country’s young and bring awareness to the issue.

The Coalition to End Youth Homelessness recommends the Irish Government invest in mediation, counseling and mentoring services for minors that live in instability. Through intervening in difficult family situations early, the government can provide tools to children to facilitate a smooth transition from a rocky childhood to successful adulthood.

Housing First for Youth

Housing First for Youth offers safe housing for young adults ages 18-24 and ongoing aftercare. The organization also supports the full transition into adult life. Without an aftercare plan and a sense of support, the odds of a young individual falling back into homelessness are high. Housing First for Youth facilitates positive, supportive relationships between the young homeless and their caseworkers, ensuring youth feel less alone in the world.

To help young people exit homelessness and live independently, they need safe housing and continued support. There are currently no social housing programs specifically for young individuals. There are risks when young people reside in accommodations inhabited by adults including intimidation, exploitation and exposure to criminal behaviors.

Efforts From Other Organizations

Other organizations in Ireland have recognized the prevalence of youth homelessness and made efforts to provide safe spaces and support for disadvantaged young people. Good Shepard Cork caters to homeless individuals ages 15-19, specifically focusing on women and children that are susceptible to fall back into homelessness. Continued support is essential to ending youth homelessness in Ireland and lifting these young people out of poverty permanently.

The six-year study published by the Health Research Board illustrates the effects of an impoverished childhood. By conducting research such as this long-term study, officials can pinpoint the early causes that lead to a life of poverty and find ways to intervene. Ensuring that struggling youth remain in school and receive ongoing support can help to reduce youth homelessness in Ireland.

Prioritizing Homeless Youth

Investing in community and school-based prevention methods has helped reduce youth homelessness by 40% in Australia and Canada. To reduce youth homelessness in Ireland, the government must follow their lead and pivot toward prevention rather than emergency services. By prioritizing the homeless youth in government policies and services, the state can prevent long-term homelessness and reduce overall poverty rates in the country.

Veronica Booth
Photo: Unsplash

Irish Aid in Vietnam
The S-shaped country of Vietnam has many picturesque sights to behold. Rice paddies stretch out over the Mekong and Red River Deltas that run through the country. Vietnam’s geography includes hills and various elevations with only 20% of the country being flat. Despite the beauty of Vietnam, the people in the country find themselves in need of aid. Since 2005, Ireland has been providing much-needed assistance to Vietnam. Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade runs the Irish Aid Programme. Irish Aid in Vietnam has provided various forms of assistance for the Vietnamese people.

Irish Aid’s Support of Ethnic Minorities

The aid that Ireland offered to Vietnam has given support to numerous sectors within the country. Sectors working with Irish Aid include human rights, agriculture, education and health. From 2011 to 2016, Irish Aid spent 17 million Euros on its Vietnam Country Strategy. One goal that the organization is working toward is the inclusion and provision of sustainable development for the various ethnic minorities that live in Vietnam. The largest of all the ethnic groups in Vietnam is the Kinh, otherwise known as the Viet. There are 53 other ethnic groups outside the Kinh that vary in how much of Vietnam’s population they make up.

Through the Irish embassy in Vietnam, Irish Aid has been addressing the needs that these ethnic groups need to better improve their quality of life. These needs include access to basic nutrition and gender empowerment. Irish Aid determines the needs of these ethnic groups by working with them and partnering with NGOs that are active in Vietnam.

Results of Irish Aid in Vietnam

Vietnam has made many improvements in various areas over the years. Life expectancy in Vietnam rose from 70 years to 76.25 just from 2005 to 2016 according to the World Bank. The stunting rate for children under the age of 5-years-old in Vietnam declined by 5% in only five years. In 2010, the stunting rate was at 29.3% and by 2014, it declined to 24.9%. Some of the work of Irish Aid in Vietnam has benefited the Vietnamese people as well. For one, the program was able to finish 60 different infrastructure projects that improved living conditions for the various ethnic minorities residing in Vietnam. Irish Aid also assisted with landmine removal across a distance of 879,431 meters.

Irish Aid held 132 landmine education sessions that taught about the dangers of landmines in Vietnam. These sessions helped to educate 38,124 children. Lastly, Irish Aid helped 400 people with disabilities in gaining employment or an improved living situation.

Despite the hardships for the people living in Vietnam, Irish Aid continues to assist. Not only has the organization provided aid, but its work has and is having a positive impact on the people of Vietnam.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Ireland
According to the Human Development Index (HDI), Ireland is the second most developed country. The index ranks countries based on life expectancy, schooling and gross national income. However, the number of people with mental illness in Ireland is among the highest in Europe. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened mental health in Ireland.

Pre-Pandemic Conditions

In 2016, records indicated that 18.5% of the Irish population had a mental health illness. In 2018, The Irish Times ran an article about the prevalence of mental health issues. The paper reported that mental health problems cost the Irish economy over €8.2 billion a year. This is equal to roughly $9.9 billion in the United States. The report stated that one in six individuals in Europe received a mental illness diagnosis in 2016 and that more than 84,000 deaths were due to mental illness or suicide in 2015.

Stigma has a vastly negative impact on mental illnesses in Ireland. Just like in many other countries, those with mental illness fear ridicule and isolation. This can delay people in getting the help they need. Although programs to try and lessen the stigma have been circulating over the years, stigma remains an issue that prevents those who need help from getting it.

The COVID-19 Pandemic’s Impact on Mental Health in Ireland

An article from the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, published in May 2020, identified health needs that could occur and require addressing during four waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the first wave of the pandemic, the idea was that Ireland’s health system should prepare to address health needs that would emerge during the subsequent waves.

The article determined that during the second wave of the pandemic, people would not seek medical care due to a fear they would become infected with COVID-19. In fact, many people with non-serious conditions and preexisting mental health conditions held off from attending regularly scheduled appointments.

Estimates have determined that the fourth wave will be the largest and longest phase of the pandemic. It is not likely to peak until months after the other phases and could continue for months after COVID-19 infections start dropping. In this fourth wave, the healthcare industry could see many new mental illness cases. Indeed, these could involve those mourning COVID-19 losses, frontline workers under stress, COVID-19 survivors and more. There will also likely be many cases of relapse among those who already struggled with mental health illnesses before the pandemic.

In Ireland, the funding for mental health services has remained low, especially compared with other countries. Compared to New Zealand and the United Kingdom, which both have 12% of the overall health budget allocated to mental health services, Ireland allocates roughly 6%. Investments and innovation are urgent to ensure that people do not overwhelm mental health services. Moreover, it is essential that professionals can respond accordingly when necessary. A survey of 195 psychiatrists in Ireland found that there was an increased number of referrals for anxiety disorders and depression as of 2021.

Solutions

Ireland added another €1 billion to the healthcare budget for 2020. This funding went toward extending free childcare and providing additional employment for therapists and nurses. The additional therapists could help curb the state of mental health in Ireland.

In addition, Ireland’s budget for 2021 includes another €4 billion for healthcare. Additionally, new mental health services will receive €38 million in funding. The plan will be for the enhancement of mental health community teams, child and adolescent mental health services, crisis resolution services, development of clinical care programs and investment in peer support workers and employment supports.

Mental illness in Ireland is a pronounced issue to society, and the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened it. The increase in funding for healthcare in the budget shows that the government has taken steps towards improving mental health services. It may take time to overcome the hurdles pertaining to mental health, but Ireland is making an effort.

– Courtney Roe
Photo: Flickr

Ireland's Foreign AidIreland, with a population of approximately five million, has dedicated time and resources to alleviating poverty and hunger. The country’s “A Better World” policy has been a focus of Irish Aid, the government’s official foreign aid program. Ireland’s foreign aid works closely with many countries, prioritizing countries in sub-Saharan Africa, through development partnerships with local governments and communities and other international aid programs.

Irish Aid

Ireland’s foreign aid, better known as Irish Aid continues to provide development aid and assistance for the most impoverished communities in the world. The Humanitarian Programme Plan is one of the main sources of funding for Irish Aid’s work with non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In 2020, the budget was more than €15.8 million in order to maintain strong partnerships with NGOs while providing humanitarian assistance and emergency relief.

The Rapid Response Corps (RRC) is a group of 120 highly trained members that goes to communities for emergency response aid and crisis management. Irish Aid formed Standby Agreements for the RRC with four U.N. humanitarian agencies: The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Food Programme, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the United Nations Children’s Fund. Working with these organizations, Ireland’s foreign aid has resulted in more than 400 Rapid Response Corps deployments since 2007.

A Better World

Ireland’s newest foreign policy, “A Better World,” aims to promote sustainability and peace while providing developmental assistance and protecting human rights. Launched by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney, this foreign aid policy is an example of how the Irish government is committing itself to “reaching the U.N. target of allocating 0.7% of our GNI to official development assistance by 2030.”

This new policy mainly focuses on gender equality, adequate governance and combating poverty. In addition, it aims to maintain partnerships with prominent aid programs and organizations to prioritize violence and conflict prevention, health and education, food sustainability and humanitarian crises. This policy will, therefore, ensure support to the most impoverished communities in the world through trackable funding, partnerships and emergency response.

Visible Impact

Because Ireland’s foreign aid has provided support and resources for some of the world’s impoverished communities, progress is visible. Irish Aid’s successes are notable, including a recent project providing access to education for girls in Zambia through a partnership with Campaign for Female Education. The project has supported marginalized girls with resources, funding and training while also breaking down the barriers barring girls from their right to an education. Another prominent impact of Ireland’s foreign aid is its commitment to clean and affordable energy. Irish Aid headed the National Cookstove Steering committee that provides cookstoves to individuals in Malawi as a solution to reduce deforestation and the health impacts of open fire cooking.

Irish Aid and the “A Better World” policy emphasize the importance of creating equal opportunities for impoverished communities by providing support to fight poverty and hunger as well as several other key global issues affecting the world today. Ireland has made immense strides in prioritizing foreign aid in the hope to join the fight for poverty alleviation.

Caroline Pierce
Photo: Flickr

Gender Pay Gap in IrelandThe gender pay gap in Ireland has been a problem for decades. This issue has continued to persist despite legislative efforts in the past. However, in 2019, Ireland passed the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill to amend previous legislation on the matter. The bill requires employers to make known any pay differences between female and male employees and to take action to address unjustified differences. Supporters of the bill hope that it will force employers to acknowledge and close the pay gap. It is important to recognize how far Ireland has come toward rectifying inequality, acknowledging the poverty it can induce.

History of the Gender Pay Gap in Ireland

Gender equality policies in Ireland were implemented when Ireland joined the European Economic Committee (EEC) in the 1970s. In 1973, women made up only 27% of Ireland’s workforce. As a result of joining the EEC, Ireland dropped the marriage bar for women working in civil service occupations. The marriage bar forced employed women to resign from their jobs once married. The bar was clearly discriminatory and to the disadvantage of women. Joining the EU also helped Ireland integrate more women into the workforce through gender mainstreaming on all government projects supported by the EU. Gender mainstreaming requires equal opportunities for men and women. Eventually, Ireland extended gender mainstreaming to state projects as well. By 2018, 77.2% of women in Ireland were working.

Unfortunately, despite increased representation in the workforce, the pay gap between men and women did not diminish. Before the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill, the government passed extensive legislation to try to minimize the gap. This includes the Anti-Discrimination Pay Act of 1974 and the Employment Equality Act of 1998. Yet, the pay gap remained substantial.

The Equal Pay Act of 1970 was supposed to regulate the pay gap between men and women. However, employers were able to get around this by changing women’s job titles, reinforcing the gender pay gap decades later. The Equal Pay Act of 1970 legislated equal pay and equal conditions for men and women. The loophole allowed employers to continue discriminatory practices, and decades later, a gender wage gap still exists.

Rectifying the Gender Wage Gap

In previous bills, the wording was often too vague and unspecific so employers could find loopholes to get away with underpaying their female employees. The Gender Pay Gap Information Bill works to narrow these possibilities by using more specific wording to apply to all public bodies. It also grants a minister the ability to get involved with these matters and enforce these rules. The bill also requires companies to report on the payment disparities between employees. Where companies could once get away with payment disparities through bonus packages, the bill eliminates this by holding companies accountable in their reports. Businesses refusing to take a course of action to rectify pay gaps can be held responsible to do so by the government.

The most recent statistic available on the pay gap in Ireland as of 2017 is 14.4%. The EU gender pay gap average was almost 15%, indicating that Ireland is doing better in this regard than other EU states. Further work is necessitated for Ireland to completely eliminate the disparity, but identifying where the problem originates is the first step toward this goal. The Gender Pay Gap Information Bill aims to help close the gap and achieve gender equality.

– Samantha Fazio
Photo: Flickr

Redlegs of Barbados
About 400 Irish descendants live in poverty today on an eastern Caribbean island called Barbados. One can date their ancestors back to the 1600s when Captain Joseph West sold the first 53 Irish indentured servants to the government of Barbados. Over time, a total of 50,000 Irish indentured servants would undergo transport to Barbados. The Irish descendants in Barbados received the name of Redlegs of Barbados because of their sunburns turning their pale white skin bright red from the hot tropical sun. Even after hundreds of years, their bodies still have not adapted to the unfamiliar heat conditions.

Their History

Oliver Cromwell, a political and military leader for England, led the invasion of Ireland in 1649 leading to his role in the transportation of the conquered Irish people to become the Redlegs of Barbados. It was his death that brought an end to the major transportation of Irish indentured servants and the start of the transportation of African slaves to Barbados.

Living Conditions

“School absenteeism, poor health, the ill effects of inter-family marriage, large families, little ownership of land and lack of job opportunities have locked those remaining on the island into a poverty trap. Even today the red legs still stand out as anomalies and are hard-pressed for survival in a society that has no niche for them,” says Sheena Jolley, a photographer who has captured the living conditions of the Redlegs of Barbados.

The Redlegs of Barbados have mostly married within their community. As a result, this caused a higher risk of birth defects, diseases and shorter life expectancy. Some integration with African descendants in Barbados has occurred, which has led to better health and education for some Redlegs. However, many still struggle with health problems. Lack of dental care and poor diet has also contributed towards Redlegs of Barbados having bad or even no teeth at all.

Help from Ireland

Micheal Martin, Irish Minister and Department of Foreign Affairs, has commented on the issue of assistants to the Redlegs of Barbados. His insight to the Irish Aboard Unit, “manages and coordinates the Emigrants Support Programme (ESP) in partnership with Ireland’s embassies and consulates abroad,” says they have been to Barbados to meet with the community. During their meetings, the Redlegs received encouragement to keep in contact with the government.

“Representatives of the community are welcome to submit an application for funding under the Emigrant Support Programme” said Minister Martin.

Joshua Botkin
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in IrelandIreland is mostly known for its lush greens, beautiful castles and vibrant culture. However, hunger in Ireland is a persistent problem that is not often discussed. While the Great Famine in the 1800s comes to mind for those thinking of Ireland’s hunger crisis, it is imperative to note that hunger still exists in the nation. Here are three things to know about hunger in Ireland.

3 Things to Know About Hunger in Ireland

  1.  In Ireland, 2.50% of the population lives in hunger. Though this is a small percentage, there hasn’t been a decrease for at least 20 years. While it is a good sign that hunger has not grown in the country, this number suggests that there still is a portion of the population struggling to access food. Unfortunately, living in a first-world country, issues such as hunger are not always prioritized.
  2. Poverty rates in Ireland are still high. In 2019, there were more than 680,000 people living in hunger. About 200,000 of that number were children. Poverty and hunger often go hand-in-hand; it can be extremely difficult for the impoverished to provide food for themselves and their families. Addressing hunger in Ireland, therefore, will also require poverty reduction efforts.
  3. COVID-19 in Ireland: COVID-19 cases in Ireland skyrocketed and peaked in mid-April, but are slowly trending upward today. Due to the nature of the virus, everyone can be affected, but even more so if a person is unable to find proper protection and care to try to stave off the virus. Due to this, health problems are a concern. This issue can be linked to the poverty levels, in turn leading to more hunger as those affected are trying to pay for medical bills and the necessities that come with proper medical care. It is still not clear if poverty and hunger in Ireland can be inextricably linked to the coronavirus. However, with trends around the world showing this is the case, it is simply food for thought.

Turn2us

One organization that has raised the bar in helping those in poverty throughout the country is Turn2us. This organization focuses specifically on the financially needy in Ireland and looks to help those people in multiple ways. Their current campaign is called #LivingWithout. While poverty and hunger often calls to mind a country in the depths of financial despair, helping those in need in a modern country may look very different. #LivingWithout was made specifically to help families or individuals in Ireland to obtain the necessary household appliances that are needed to function well each day.

Turn2us focuses specifically on welfare benefits, charitable grants and other support in order to uplift countless lives. Their focus on practical programs, like #LivingWithout, shows that poverty in a modern setting needs much different help than a developing country. The strategy differs, and Turn2us highlights this fact by targeting the UK and its citizens.

During a time of such need around the world, it is important to look at even the most developed places for signs of hunger and needed aid. In order to see a downfall in the 2.50% hunger rate in Ireland, it is necessary to bring awareness around the subject.

Natalie Belford
Photo: Flickr

5 Facts About Homelessness in IrelandDespite being among the wealthiest countries in the world, Ireland has struggled to address its homelessness crisis. Since 2008, when the country encountered a difficult economic crisis that struck the housing market with rising rent prices and ceased construction efforts to expand housing, Ireland’s homeless population has only grown into a greater national problem. Protests have erupted across the country and the government has stepped in to address the housing crisis with its “Rebuilding Ireland” program designed to create additional housing units to protect people from homelessness. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, homelessness numbers are reflecting a decline that hasn’t been seen in years.

5 Things to Know About Homelessness in Ireland

  1. Lingering Effects of Ireland’s “Lost Decade”: Similar to the 2008 financial crisis in the U.S., Ireland had its own housing bubble which burst in 2008, setting off a decade-long housing crisis. With Ireland’s housing market dropped in price by 54%, the housing construction was forced to a standstill and Irish banks were swarmed with debt. The effects of the crisis dubbed this period of recession the “lost decade”—a time when rising rent costs turned many people to the streets, and unemployment and poverty rose. St. Vincent de Paul, the largest charity in Ireland which provides aid and shelter to the homeless, was fielding double their usual number of calls during the first two years after the crisis. More than a decade later, Ireland is still struggling to recover from the impacts of the housing crisis.
  2. Housing is Not Affordable: A report released by the Irish Homebuilders Association (IHBA) stated the time required for a potential homeowner to save a downpayment could take more than 15 years in some cities in Ireland, including Dublin and Galway. In fact, Dublin has become one of the most expensive cities in the world to pay rent. High rents that consume large portions of an individual’s income tied with limited housing availability are two factors that contribute to the challenges of saving for future home-ownership. Rising rent prices show no signs of slowing down, either, with a 17% rent increase predicted for the upcoming years. Although tenants may manage to pull together their monthly rents, homelessness does not elude all renters: The majority of people who become homeless previously lived in privately rented areas.
  3. Homelessness Rates Shows Signs of Declining Amid COVID-19: Homelessness has been rising for several years since the crisis, growing into a national concern and reality for many people in Ireland. However, recently homelessness numbers dropped to their lowest levels since 2017. In May 2020, it was reported that 8,876 people were affected by homelessness, the first time this number has fallen below 9,000 people in the last three years. This decrease is likely from the emergency accommodations recently implemented to support the most vulnerable of Ireland’s population during the pandemic. Throughout Ireland, 600 places were made available that would allow people to self-isolate and maintain social distancing. However, once COVID-19 restrictions in Ireland are lifted, it is possible these numbers could rise to even higher rates as housing construction projects are delayed even further.
  4. Young Adult Homelessness Rates are High: Young adults are one of the groups most impacted by the housing crisis In Ireland. According to Focus Ireland, an organization that helps young people out of homelessness, the number of young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 afflicted by homelessness has increased by 31% since June 2015. But Focus Ireland also points out this figure is likely an underestimate. Official homelessness figures don’t account for the number of young people who seek out friends and family for a temporary place to stay rather than homeless shelters and services—“the forgotten homeless,” as Focus Ireland classifies this group. Young adults who grew up in the aftermath of the housing and financial crisis now face steep rents that hinder their abilities to save for buying a home, an emblem of adulthood.
  5. Ireland’s High Housing Demands: One of the root causes of homelessness in Ireland stems from the country’s inadequate supply of affordable housing. The percentage of households renting privately owned homes has doubled in demand over the past decade, limiting available housing and causing rent prices to climb. Construction efforts to build additional housing are not keeping up with demand either. In response, Ireland’s government installed the “Rebuilding Ireland” program in 2016, an initiative aimed at adding 25,000 housing units per year. According to the 2019 Housing Conference, the program met 74% of its 2018 annual target. However, Focus Ireland believes a solution to Ireland’s housing crisis resides in providing affordable public housing, which the country currently lacks. Public housing can give families and individuals burdened by high rents or eviction notices a humane and affordable option. Although housing, a personal right in Ireland, is slim, supporting the expansion of public housing could be the solution to actualizing this right and creating a stable future for all those who live in Ireland.

As reflected in Ireland’s recently reported figures, homelessness is on the decline. If the “Rebuilding Ireland” program fulfills its established mission of building additional housing, homelessness in Ireland could be combatted even further. Combined with Ireland’s successful response to sheltering the homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic, homelessness in Ireland is showing promising signs of being a resolved issue throughout the country.

Grace Mayer
Photo: Flickr