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MLRC faces rising demand as housing crisis goes rural
Lawyer Kate Heffernan

04 Mar 2024 / ireland Print

MLRC faces rising demand as housing crisis goes rural

Lawyer Kate Heffernan has returned to Mercy Law Resource Centre, after a previous internship and later work as a pro bono secondee from Arthur Cox.

The Trinity LLB graduate also did a postgraduate LL.M at New York University (NYU).

Before training as a solicitor, Heffernan worked as a judicial assistant in the High Court and also undertook a public-interest law fellowship with FLAC in conjunction with the University of Washington.

During her time at NYU, she assisted the Legal Aid Society in the representation of tenants in New York City Housing Court.

Demand up

Demand for MLRC's service is at an all-time high, with a 35% annual increase in requests for legal assistance in 2023.

The charity has seen a 41% increase in phone calls from January 2023. 

As a result, MLRC is recruiting a fourth solicitor.

Dramatic rise

The number of homeless people in Ireland has risen dramatically in recent years, the charity points out.

Department of Housing, Local Government, and Heritage data shows 13,318 living in State-funded emergency accommodation in Ireland in the third week of December 2023.

This is an increase of 86% compared with the third week of December 2016.


Homelessness is rising across all regions, MLRC says, with disparities in access to homeless services in places that would not have experienced significant homelessness historically.

Five regions increased at rates greater than Dublin over the same period:

  • 414% increase in the North-West,
  • 180% increase in the Midlands,
  • 157% increase in the West,
  • South-West saw an increase of 102%, and
  • Mid-East increased by 97%.

Only one region has recorded a decrease in homelessness, with the South-East reporting a 1% drop since 2016.

Mercy Law Resource Centre has seen a sharp increase in the number of homeless individuals outside of Dublin contacting it for legal assistance.

Some regional local authorities have limited infrastructure for dealing with homeless presentations and, in some cases, have no emergency accommodation available at all, MLRC says.

‘Hidden homeless’

MLRC also encounters ‘hidden homeless’, who are not counted in official figures.

This includes those sleeping rough, couch-surfing, housed in domestic-violence shelters, and living in severely overcrowded or inappropriate accommodation.

Mercy Law says individuals and families have faced serious obstacles in accessing homeless assessments, and some local authorities are without any defined procedure to obtain an assessment.

The charity is running training session on Fundamentals of Housing Law on 13 March.

Email events@mercylaw.ie to register.

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