Skip Page Header

Home > A study of 'out-of-home' young people in Cork City.

Keane, Martin (2008) A study of 'out-of-home' young people in Cork City. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 27, Autumn 2008 , p. 16.

PDF (Drugnet Ireland, issue 27) - Published Version

Research by Mayock and Carr1 highlights, once again, the association between substance misuse and homelessness. This research was designed to generate in-depth knowledge and understanding of the experiences of homelessness among young people in the south of Ireland, particularly in Cork city.

 Life-history interviews were conducted with 37 young people (20 males and 17 females) between April and October 2006. Participants ranged in age from 16 to 25 years and were recruited from residential settings, emergency hostels, drop-in centres and the street. Aspects of the group profile were:
  • Twenty reported a history of state care.
  • Seven were either parents (3) or expectant parents (4).
  • Five reported a learning disability and had attended a special school.
  • Ten had left school without formal qualifications.
  • The majority (21) described themselves as unemployed.
  • Nine were attending a skills training scheme (FÁS).
  • Twenty-four reported depression; 20 reported substance misuse; 15 reported stress or anxiety; 13 reported one or more episode of self-harm; and six reported attempted suicide.
 Study objectives and key findings
The first objective was to identify young people’s pathways into homelessness. Four distinct pathways were identified:  
  •  Having spent time in state care (13 participants) Features of this pathway were multiple care placements in residential and/or foster care, inadequate preparations for leaving the care setting and lack of aftercare.·   
  • Abusive family situation (10 participants) Characterised by abuse or violence directed at the respondent, or between other family members, creating an unstable environment.
  • Family conflict (10 participants) Typically, these accounts described difficult relationships within the family home, often with a parent, and sometimes of long standing.
  • Problematic behaviour (4 participants) Accounts described patterns of behaviour that led to family relationship problems, including problem substance use, criminal activity, gambling and aggression.
 A second objective was to examine participants’ experiences of living out of home. The experiences reported were characterised by movement from one insecure setting to another, resulting in instability and insecurity. For example, participants reported running away from home and care placements, difficulties with living in different accommodation settings and problems with tenancy sustainment in private rented accommodation. The majority of participants who accessed adult hostels, experienced a sense of stigma, which confirmed a homeless identity for some. Substance misuse issues, mental health issues and learning difficulties often predominated when young people were exposed to this setting. Six participants reported moving between prisons and psychiatric hospitals, and some reported a pattern of movement between Ireland and the UK.
A third objective was to examine the challenges young people experience on becoming homeless. One of the main challenges facing participants was their use of alcohol and illegal substances. All except one of the 37 participants had consumed alcohol at some point. Thirty-one had used an illegal drug at some point, of whom two-thirds reported the use of four or more substances in their lifetime. Nine had used heroin but only two were current users. The early- to mid-teenage years was the peak period of initiation into both alcohol and illegal drug use. Substance use was associated with coping mechanisms: some participants, particularly those in hostels, tended to drink and use drugs to ‘pass the time’; and many used substances to counteract anxiety and depression. Some reported using substances to ‘chill out’ with peers, and stated that managing their use of alcohol and drugs was important as they did not want to develop the kind of negative relations with these substances that they had often seen in their parents. A total of 22 reported either past or ongoing problems with their use of alcohol and/or drugs.
In general, substance use did not emerge as a factor leading to homelessness for the majority of the young people. However,it did exacerbate the challenges faced by some participants in their efforts to secure and sustain accommodation, and often caused crises with regard to their tenancies.  
1.    Mayock P and Carr N (2008) Not just homelessness: a study of ‘out of home’ young people in Cork city. Cork: Health Service Executive, South.


Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Harm reduction
Issue Title
Issue 27, Autumn 2008
Page Range
p. 16
Health Research Board
Issue 27, Autumn 2008
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

Repository Staff Only: item control page