Focus Ireland deeply concerned as homelessness rises to 9,150 and crisis deepens as one family has lost their home every day in the last 6 months
New figures published today by the Department of Housing show there were 9,150 people homeless in January 2021 – an increase of 236 compared to 8,914 people homeless in December.
Focus Ireland said it is deeply concerned as the crisis is deepening again and undoing the considerable progress made during the pandemic when the eviction ban – and other measures – helped work to cut the numbers homeless by 2,000. Focus Ireland highlighted that the figures show that at least one family became homeless every day in the last 6 months and many more on the brink of homelessness due to the unstable housing sector.
Focus Ireland CEO Pat Dennigan says: “There are children in families who mostly lost their homes in the private rented sector as they could not keep up with rising rents and in other cases, the landlord could be selling the property so the family can be evicted. Many low-income families are dependent on housing assistance payments (HAP), yet HAP has not increased in over 5 years.”
“Tenants must pay a portion of the rent themselves on top of the HAP payment and what our services around the country have seen in that the families have to cut back on food, heating, and other bills to try to keep a roof over their heads. They quickly fall into arrears and debt and end up losing their home and becoming homeless. Once homeless it is proving near impossible for many families to regain a home in the private rented sector so too many become trapped in homelessness.” Focus Ireland said it is positive that the Government has indicated it is to review HAP rates and this needs to be done as quickly as possible.
Mr. Dennigan adds: “We strongly advise any family or individual struggling to pay the rent to seek help from the likes of Focus Ireland or other local advice and information services in their area. This can help to stop a housing problem from becoming a full-blown crisis which ends in them becoming homeless. The Government has indicated last week that it is planning to review the HAP limits and we welcome this as part of much-needed actions required to help stem the rising flow of families with children becoming homeless.”
Meanwhile, Focus Ireland said that it fully supports Minister Darragh O’Brien’s public consultation of the Youth Homeless Strategy, which the Department of Housing claim will outline the actions that are required to help people aged 18 – 24 who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Young people are at particular risk during a housing crisis, with private landlords, social housing bodies and local authorities less likely to rent to them. Focus Ireland highlighted that the strategy should include a commitment to improve measures to prepare 16–18-year-olds for leaving care and this must include a pathway to suitable accommodation to prevent them from becoming homeless.