Focus Ireland welcomes drop in September homeless numbers to 8,656 people as the charity calls for the government to broaden the eviction ban to help protect vulnerable renters during COVID-19

New figures published today by the Department of Housing show the number of people who are homeless in September dropped to 8,656 from a total of 8,702 in August – a drop of 46 people.

Focus Ireland welcomes this drop, a week following the government’s positive response to the charity’s call for a reintroduction of the moratorium on evictions. However, given the proven effectiveness of these measures in cutting homelessness, Focus Ireland is looking for a longer-term and more consistent application of restrictions on evictions. The charity also believes the good progress by the State, local authorities and NGOs must continue in order to ensure more adults and children find a home in time for Christmas.

Focus Ireland CEO Pat Dennigan said: “Since the lapse on the eviction freeze at the end of August, Focus Ireland has called for this temporary measure to be put back in place as we warned of the re-occurrence of disruptive evictions at a time of nationwide uncertainty during the pandemic.  It is a very positive move by Minister Darragh O’Brien to ensure the inclusion of the eviction moratorium in the Level 5 Covid response, as this will mean there will be very swift protections for tenants, but we feel the measure should be triggered before we get to the most extreme public health risks at Level 5. Focus Ireland believes that the eviction moratorium should be triggered at Level 4 – at the point where visitors are not permitted in a household. Introducing a moratorium on evictions only in the most extreme situation of a nationwide ‘Level 5’ lockdown may not be enough to prevent vulnerable households being evicted into situations where there is a high risk of contracting and spreading Covid-19.”

He added: “The moratorium significantly reduced the number of children and adults who were becoming homeless during the 5-month period since the measure began in March and this really helped services protect people who were already homeless during Covid19 as well as help a record number to secure a home.  A broader eviction ban for level 4 & 5 restrictions will help to prevent homeless services from becoming stretched to breaking point during the winter months. We are deeply concerned about reports of further deaths of people who are homeless over the last week. The circumstances of each death are often complex but it is clear that further measures are needed to allow all services to focus resources on keeping people who are homeless safe and provide them with homes much more quickly.”

Mr Dennigan concluded: “We have kept people safe during Covid19 and worked with our State partners and supporters to help over 2,000 people in 760 households to secure a place to call home since the start of this terrible pandemic in March.  We worked with State partners to help these households move into a mix of Private-Rented, local authority housing, other Approved Housing Body housing and some now live in our Focus Housing accommodation.”

Focus Ireland also called on the Minister to use this period when the homeless figures are to convene an expert group to review the way homeless figures are counted and to return confidence to the reporting system. “It undermines the hard work of everyone when the data which seems to reflect good news is not reliable or widely believed. It is hard to review figures when they are rising and the Minister to take this opportunity to convene an expert group to review the way data is collected and reestablish confidence in the published figures.”

Meanwhile, there are 2,583 children and 1,128 families homeless (this representing 137 fewer children but 8 more families than the previous month) according to latest figures from the Department of Housing, reflecting welcome success in finding homes for larger families.

Media contact: Roughan Mac Namara 086 85 15 117 or Conor Culkin 086 4680 442

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