Understanding Homelessness and Substance Use in Northern Ireland: A Study Protocol

Amanda Shields

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Background and Context:
Undoubtedly, homelessness and substance use are prevalent issues within NI with an array of public, media and political discussion on the complex relationship between the two social issues. Within these dialogues, we can see that stigma and stereotypical attitudes permeate society, with emphasis placed on the label that individuals who are homeless also have issues with alcohol and/or drug misuse. This raises curiosity around the extent to which this is true. Do the majority of homeless people also have substance use problems and if so, why is this? Furthermore, this has initiated discussions about direct links and whether substance use is a cause and/or a consequence of homelessness.
Homelessness is an escalating problem within NI, with latest data stating that approximately 20,000 households (this may be single people or a family unit) presented as homeless. However, within these statistics there is no breakdown that would suggest the prevalence of substance use being a contributory factor in why a person presents as homeless. Moreover, there is a significant gap in homeless research in NI, with little evidence outlining the scale of substance use within the current homeless population. It has been argued that NI needs more specific data, therefore we cannot accurately discuss the link between homelessness and substance use or attempt to address this on a policy and practice level, in the absence of robust research.

Aim of Study:
This study is attempting to scope the prevalence and demographic nature of homelessness and substance use in NI, whilst exploring the apparent reciprocal relationship between these issues.

The study design of this research will be presented, highlighting that although the research wishes to explore the various truths (relativism) held by those who experience homelessness, it is recognised that often one single truth (realism) is also desired so that it can be understood and translated into policy and practice. Subsequently, this research has adopted a mixed-methods approach within a pragmatic paradigm, utilising both quantitative and qualitive methodology in three distinct, yet concurrent phases (Qual-Quant-Qual), with both practitioners and services users in the homeless sector, through focus groups, surveys and semi-structured interviews.

As this study is not yet complete, analysis of findings cannot be offered. However, the presentation will discuss some preliminary findings that should demonstrate the success of this study.

Homelessness and substance use are important social issues that require robust research evidence so that society can effectively respond to the needs of individuals. This presentation will outline the study protocol used in a current research study which is examining these issues.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019
EventAll Ireland Social Work Research Conference 2019 - Carmelite Community Centre, Dublin, Ireland
Duration: 14 Jun 201914 Jun 2019


ConferenceAll Ireland Social Work Research Conference 2019


Dive into the research topics of 'Understanding Homelessness and Substance Use in Northern Ireland: A Study Protocol'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this