Homelessness rises to 10,975 as Focus Ireland states monthly figures are not an accurate reflection of the crisis due to near full Emergency Accommodation
28th October 2022
Eviction ban must be a catalyst to deliver lasting solutions
Figures published by the Department of Housing today show the number of people who are officially homeless has risen for a 9th month in a row to 10,975. The monthly figures have also reached a new record level for the third consecutive month. The latest stats are an increase of 170 since the previous August figure of 10,805 and a 2,500 increase from only a year ago (8,475 in September 2021).
Over the last few months, Focus Ireland has warned that all emergency homeless accommodation is full and there is now a waiting list in some local authorities of vulnerable families who now can’t even get a bed for the night. These warnings were recently confirmed by a briefing to Cabinet. One consequence of this is that the monthly figures increasingly fail to reflect the scale of the challenge, as the limited number of emergency beds essentially sets a ceiling on the official figures, with growing numbers of ‘hidden homeless’ not counted such as couch surfers, families ‘doubling up’ with friends/family and even people sleeping in tents and cars.
Focus Ireland CEO Pat Dennigan said: “It’s a reality that the monthly homeless figures are now a reflection of people only in emergency accommodation, the actual number of people homeless is in fact considerably higher. Unlike many European countries even at the height of the homeless crisis over the last 10 years, Ireland managed to avoid families sleeping in tents or their cars, now this grim prospect is a reality. More social and affordable housing is the long-term solution but in the short term we immediately need more emergency accommodation as homeless services such as Focus Ireland’s frontline team are being stretched to their maximum capacity. The prospect is looking increasingly grim this winter unless there is an urgent response to avoid more trauma for families across the country.”
Focus Ireland firmly believes that homelessness is avoidable with effective policies and the charity cautiously welcomed the no fault eviction ban which comes into effect at the start of November.
Mr Dennigan added: “While a no-fault eviction ban is necessary, what’s also crucial is what the Minister for Housing will do for the five months while the ban is in place to tackle the underlying problem. We need measures to radically ramp up and accelerate delivery of social and affordable housing, meaningful policies and resources deployed to tackle vacancy, and a suite of measures to incentivise landlords to stay in the market. We must avoid a repeat of what followed after the previous eviction ban during the Covid-19 lockdowns which saw a dramatic increase in homelessness when the measure was lifted.”
With the State running out of capacity to accommodate refugees, the public are rightly demanding a more coordinated approach from central Government working with Local Authorities across the country.
Mr Dennigan said: “We have a moral and legal obligation to welcome and provide adequate accommodation for people seeking refuge in Ireland, whether they are refugees fleeing Ukraine or elsewhere. This is not an either/or situation—with the right political focus, attention and cross-departmental coordination we can work towards resolving our housing and homelessness crisis and in parallel we can welcome refugees who need our help. Doing the right thing, however, will have consequences, and it falls to Government to ensure that the brunt of those consequences is not felt by already marginalised groups. It is essential that the State’s responses to these twin crises are kept separate, and that we do not have a situation where refugees are forced onto the streets coming into contact with our homeless services”.
The September figures also report a total of 1,532 families with 3,342 children homeless. Child homelessness up 43% compared with September 2021. Of the 1,532 families homeless in September 2022, 855 or 56% are from lone parent families.
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