Welcome decrease in rough sleeping as adult-only homelessness at record level in Dublin

Author: Emma Byrne

There was a welcomed slight decrease in the number of individuals found rough sleeping in Dublin in Spring 2022 according to figures published by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) last week[1]. The Official Spring Count of people sleeping rough in the Dublin Region was carried out over the week March 28th – April 3rd and identified a total of 91 individuals confirmed as rough sleeping during the week. This is a decrease from the 125 individuals confirmed as rough sleeping during the same period the previous year[2], and a slight decrease from 94 individuals in October 2021[3].

Of the 91 identified individuals, 72 people had PASS IDs, meaning that they had previously engaged with homeless services, or had a PASS record created during the week of the count. Summary statistics of the 72 individuals who were registered on the PASS system shows that the majority of individuals found rough sleeping were male (64%), however, there was a 15% increase in the percentage of females found rough sleeping in the Spring 2022 count compared to the October 2021 count. Most individuals found rough sleeping (67%) were aged 26-45, followed by those aged 46-61 (25%) and the vast majority (90%) had Irish citizenship, with the remaining individuals having citizenship from another EU country.

However, while rough sleeping in the capital has decreased by 27% since this time last year, adult-only homelessness has risen by 15% in Dublin in the same period[4]. While the number of families experiencing homelessness in Dublin has fluctuated in the last 6 years, peaking in 2018, falling significantly when rental protections were introduced during the COVID-19 emergency and beginning to rise again from mid-2021 when rental protections ended, adult-only homelessness in Dublin has been rising steadily during the same 6-year period and is now at its highest ever level as demonstrated by Figure 1. To learn more about the drivers of homelessness in adult-only households see this Focus Ireland blog from 2021.

Figure 1: Individuals in Emergency Accommodation in Dublin, 2016-2022

Source: Department of Housing, Planning, Community & Local Government


Increase in use of Private Emergency Accommodation (PEA)

It is positive that the increase in adult-only households experiencing homelessness in Dublin has not appeared to increase the number of people rough sleeping in the snapshot provided by the bi-annual counts. Instead, it appears that most people who rough sleep in the Dublin region move back and forth between different forms of homelessness, including rough sleeping, accessing emergency homeless accommodation, and staying in insecure accommodation (such as couch surfing with friends or family) as noted in the DRHE report.

While rough sleeping has decreased in the last year, the use of emergency accommodation, specifically private emergency accommodation (PEA) such as hotels, B&Bs and other residential facilities that are used on an emergency basis is increasing in Dublin[4]. In the last year, there has also been a 25% increase in the number of households, both adult-only households and families, accessing private emergency accommodation (PEA) in Dublin as shown in Figure 2 as adult-only homelessness continues to increase and family homelessness began to increase again following the end of Covid-19 emergency rental protections in April 2021.

Figure 2: Homeless Emergency Accommodation Types in Dublin

Source: Department of Housing, Planning, Community & Local Government


Regular movement between different forms of homelessness

The Spring 2022 Count paints a clearer picture of how individuals experiencing the most extreme forms of homelessness move between various forms of homelessness regularly, while also showing that there is not a large static group of people who continuously rough sleep in Dublin. Although, it is important to note that a smaller group of 13 individuals were identified in both the April 2022 and October 2021 Counts. Almost all (94%) of the individuals recorded as rough sleeping in the Spring 2022 Count has accessed emergency accommodation at some point prior to the week of the count, and 9 individuals recorded in the Spring Count 2022 had an active tenancy. A further 11 individuals had a booking for emergency accommodation on the same night of their engagement with those carrying out the count.

This clearly demonstrates that homelessness is not a linear process of moving from rough sleeping to emergency homeless hostels to a long-term home. Rather, it appears from the DRHE report that the reality is much more complex and chaotic, with many fluctuations occurring for adult-only households experiencing homelessness.

Homelessness, particularly the most extreme forms of homelessness like rough sleeping and accessing emergency hostels, is a traumatic and chaotic experience. The reasons that people rough sleep are often complex, and thus the solutions to ending rough sleeping must be equally complex and intense. Housing First, a housing-led approach with intensive wrap-around support, is the primary model used in Ireland to support people with experience of rough sleeping out of homelessness and one of the core principles of Housing First is the long-term continuation of intensive support for people who have experienced long-term homelessness and rough sleeping.

The Spring Count 2022 clearly highlights how necessary the continuation of long-term support is for people who have experienced the chaos and trauma of homelessness, including for those who have an active tenancy. As Housing First continues to expand across Ireland, of course the provision of secure housing is essential, but the Spring 2022 count also demonstrates why trauma-informed and intensive support should always remain at the core of all Housing First projects.

To learn more about Housing First, see here.

[1] Spring 2022 Count of Rough Sleepers in the Dublin Region available here: https://www.homelessdublin.ie/content/files/Final-Spring-2022-Report-on-people-sleeping-rough-in-the-Dublin-Region.pdf

[2] Spring 2021 Count of Rough Sleepers in the Dublin Region available here: https://www.homelessdublin.ie/content/files/Spring-2021-Count-of-people-sleepng-rough-in-the-Dublin-Region.pdf

[3] Winter 2021 Count of Rough Sleepers in the Dublin Region available here: https://www.dublincity.ie/news/winter-2021-count-rough-sleepers-dublin-region

[4] Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. Homeless data available here: https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/80ea8-homelessness-data/#homelessness-data

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