Homeless figures edging towards a historic high must ignite urgent Government action as the nation faces a social emergency
10,492 people in Emergency accommodation for the month of June.
Figures published by the Department of Housing today show the number of people who are officially homeless is edging ever closer to the historic record high last seen in October 2019 when 10,514 people were in emergency homeless accommodation. There were 10,492 people in emergency homeless accommodation in June, 167 more than in May and 2,478 more than a year ago. Most emergency homeless accommodation is now full, resulting in rising ‘hidden homelessness’ where people have to stay in precarious and unsuitable accommodation, which is not reflected in the figures published today. The shortage of social and affordable housing amid record inflation remain key drivers of monthly entries into homelessness, resulting in over-reliance and instability of the private rental market.
Focus Ireland, Director of Advocacy, Mike Allen said: “Focus Ireland has welcomed the Government’s Housing For All strategy and is working with local authorities across the country to deliver its objectives. But as homelessness rises month on month, it must be clear to everyone that just keeping on doing what we are already doing will not be enough. Local authorities across the country are being driven into desperate attempts to open new homeless shelters when we know that emergency accommodation is not the answer, housing is the answer.”
Focus Ireland welcomed the recent increase in house completions in Q2 2022, reported by the CS0, which was the highest since this series began in 2011. Industry sources have already questioned whether, given inflation and other pressures, this momentum can be continued. An equally important question is how many of the new 7,654 dwellings completed in that quarter are affordable for ordinary people to either rent or buy.
Mr Allen added: “While successive budgets have increased the total expenditure on homelessness, Focus Ireland research has shown that three-quarters of expenditure is on emergency/crisis ‘passive’ measures to provide immediate shelter, instead of ‘active’ measures to achieve long-term, stable housing. The proportion of expenditure on ‘active’ measures which alter the circumstances of the person at risk of or experiencing homelessness, has declined year on year. It is vital that we ensure our budgetary priorities are directed towards ‘active homeless measures’, such as prevention and building public homes, while also ensuring that emergency accommodation is available to those in need.”
Speaking about the impact of the pandemic Mike Allen explained: “One of the legacies of Covid 19 is that everyone now knows what the State is capable of achieving when there is leadership, co-ordination and commitment. Despite the hard work of homeless organisations, local authorities and the Dept of Housing, it is clear that State resources are not being mobilised in the same purposeful way to tackle the challenges of the housing crisis. The Government must use the summer to reset its ambition to housing and homelessness. Rising homelessness is not inevitable, and we must avoid getting into the habit of believing it is.”
Mr Allen also believes inflation is having a significant negative impact.
He adds: “The widespread cost-of-living-crisis is compounding financial pressures, leading to increases in both food and fuel poverty, as observed by Focus Ireland’s frontline services. Sharp rises in utilities have placed heavy financial burdens on groups that were already vulnerable, such as low-income families and single adult households. Those experiencing poverty and at risk of social exclusion are at a highest risk of homelessness. As a priority, the Government needs to ensure that everyone has access to an adequate income, whether this is from work or social welfare, or a mix of both.”
The June figures also report a total of 1,385 families with 3,071 children homeless.
Focus Ireland Note: This growth in homelessness is not a consequence of Ireland’s positive, and entirely correct, response to the Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion of their country. In the longer term, if refugees are unable to return home there the demand for housing will be higher than planned for in Housing For All, although the housing-need projections already include an assumption of significant inward migration. But during the current stage of response, Ukrainian refugees are being accommodated in a system completely separate to the homeless system. While homeless organisations making their expertise available to supporting the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY), Ukrainian refugees are not accommodated in emergency accommodation funded by the Department of Housing, so are not included in the monthly homelessness figures.
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