DATA ON HOMELESSNESS in Ireland is difficult to collate – at least right now.
Cohesive systems were only introduced in the past few years. Regions now report back to the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government each quarter with specific figures, but only since the start of this year.
This is connected to the Pathway Support and Accommodation Support (PASS) bed management system, which allows for information on rough sleepers and those in emergency or temporary accommodation to be tracked in much more detail.
Each region has now submitted reports for the first two quarters of this year. By the end of this year, a detailed picture will begin to emerge.
Before this system, information on homelessness was sketchy, especially when it came to the number of people sleeping rough.
However, Ireland is not alone in this. The European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless (FEANTSA) has looked at these issues across the Europe, noting that it varies significantly from country to country.
Policy Coordinator Ruth Owen said that it’s important to carry out surveys regularly to correctly gauge the extent of homelessness.
“Scandinavian countries have well-established traditions of collecting data using fairly comprehensive and regular surveys,” she said.
“Once you build up that record over time, it becomes very important for future policy.”
So what information do we have in Ireland right now?
The basics demographics
In 2011, the CSO incorporated homelessness into the Census for the first time, and issued a special report the following year. It is understood that the same information will be collected for the next Census.
From this we get a sense of the gender split…
…. and also the age demographic. The highest band for women is 25-29, while for men it is 45-49.
So how many people are sleeping rough in Ireland?
While some counties, like Wexford, have been keeping count for more than a decade now, other counties, like Westmeath, have no set records prior to 2013 on how many people were sleeping rough.
Outside of urban hubs, there are few obvious recorded rough sleepers (as in, those out on the street). When there are extremely isolated cases, frequently this involves someone who has been repeatedly offered services and accommodation, but has turned them down (this also pose a problem – there is currently no way of classing someone as intentionally homeless under Irish law).
When someone suddenly becomes homeless and ends up on the street, they will often not be counted in a rough sleeper count, and could be quickly provided with temporary accommodation.
Calculating the number of hidden homeless, those sleeping in a car, couch surfing, or even pitching a tent in a field somewhere, is harder to quantify.
TheJournal.ie has called around all councils, and got this rough tally for the amount of people sleeping rough in each county:
For purpose of action plans on homeless, the country has been divided in to a number of regions. As part of quarterly reports, each region details how many people are homeless in the country. These figures relate to roughly mid-April:
And what about people in shelters?
Many people who do present as homeless and require some form of emergency accommodation are often quickly catered for, meaning that few will end up sleeping rough.
That is assuming there are no issues involving drugs or alcohol.
The Department has started releasing figures each month that gives a county-by-county breakdown of this side of the homelessness issue.
These provide the number of people staying in Temporary Emergency Accommodation (hostel accommodation with low or minimal support), Supported Temporary Accommodation (hostel accommodation with onsite support from e.g., Focus Ireland, Simon, Crosscare), and Private Emergency Accommodation (this includes accommodation rented directly from landlords, B&Bs and hotels).
In June, there were 2,385 people classed as ‘homeless’ between 16 and 22 June this year, and using some form of the above accommodation.
When looking at the number of people in this accommodation as a percentage of the country’s total population, the cities filter to the top, but also the areas of Longford, Sligo, and Westmeath.
In Wexford, there were 32 people in emergency accommodation in June.
This changed slightly by August…
And how many children are in those shelters?
How full are those shelters?
In some areas they’re at breaking point:
Click here to view a larger version. The Q1 data for Dublin was estimated at between 98 and 99% occupancy.
How many people are becoming homeless a day? And why?
Finding the number of people presenting to services as homeless is another way of quantifying the problem.
However, muddling the figures could be cases of people who are at risk of homelessness but manage through their own accord to find suitable housing, or may later be able to return to their home.
Here’s the average for the number of people presenting as homeless each day in each of the 10 regions in Q2 of this year.
The “why” part of this question is more difficult to pin down. One regional group, Mid West, gives an interesting breakdown of the reasons why people are becoming homeless.
It shows that even within the region, there isn’t one main cause of homelessness.
Where people head to next can also vary…
*In some cases, data for the West region has been excluded as reports were submitted in a format that differed from the set form submitted by other regions, and so was either not comparable or was incomplete.