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Slight drop in number of people attending emergency accommodation in December

Despite the drop in figures, homelessness organisations have raised concerns that they may begin to rise again.

Tents located only metres away from Government Buildings.
Tents located only metres away from Government Buildings.
Image: RollingNews.ie

THERE WERE ALMOST 9,000 people in emergency accommodation in December, with homelessness organisations raising concerns that the numbers will rise further in 2022.

According to new figures released by the Department of Housing, there were 6,463 adults accessing emergency accommodation last month.

Alongside this, 2,451 children were reported as homeless last month.

This leads to a total of 8,914 men, women and children who are homeless throughout the country. This is a drop of 185 (2%) compared to November 2021.

The figures themselves were recorded between 20 December and 26 December. This is also the first drop in people accessing emergency accommodation since May 2o21.

While homelessness organisations have welcomed the slight drop compared to November 2021, they have said that this was expected, and that they expect these numbers to increase in January.

“The decrease in the number of people in homelessness in December, while expected, was very welcome. We know that people go the extra mile over the Christmas period to offer relief to those in need,” said Wayne Stanley, Head of Policy and Communication at the Simon Communities of Ireland.

“We anticipate that the numbers will increase again in January and over the first quarter of 2022. In fact, well beyond that if significant action is not taken.”

Stanley called for additional supports to be implemented urgently to prevent people from becoming homeless.

Focus Ireland’s Director of Advocacy, Mike Allen, said that while it was good news that there was a drop, there needs to be consistent drops moving forward.

Allen said that the biggest issue facing people are high rents and the increasing cost of living, with food, energy and heating costs rising due to inflation.

“The most urgent problem facing many people is unaffordable and rising rents pushing them ever closer to homelessness,” said Allen.

The Covid PUP (Pandemic Unemployment Payment) scheme will end on 25 March and the cost of living is shooting up in all areas including energy, food and rents increased by over 8% nationally up to September last year.

“Many households on low incomes are unable to find an affordable place to rent and those who are in housing are really struggling to keep a roof over their heads.”

Sinn Féin’s Housing Spokesperson, Eoin Ó’Broin said that the only way to ensure homelessness continued to drop was by ensuring that families do not enter it in the first place.

He called for the Simon Communities Homeless Prevention Bill to be progressed as soon as possible.

“The Simon Communities Homeless Prevention Bill, which passed second stage in the Dáil before Christmas, unopposed, must be progressed as soon as possible,” said Ó’Broin.

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He also said that Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien must limit the ability for landlords to evict families into homelessness when selling their properties by adopting the Focus Ireland Amendment.

The current highest homelessness figures are in Dublin, with 4,486 adults accessing emergency accommodation. Of these, 3,110 were male and 1,376 were female.

Pat Greene, Head of Policy & Volunteering at Dublin Simon Community, said that early in the pandemic there was lots of work done to tackle homelessness, but that this momentum has waned in recent months.

“Between April 2020 and May 2021, this determination and collaboration led to a 12% reduction in the number of people in Dublin emergency accommodation,” said Greene.

“Over the last six months, momentum has waned as numbers have crept swiftly upwards to pre-pandemic levels.

As restrictions lift and the wider world returns to some level of normality, we are frustrated to see the headway made and lessons learned over the last two years fading from view.

The highest proportion of homeless people is within the 25-44 age cohort, with 3,550 within that bracket accessing emergency accommodation. The second highest is the 45-64 age cohort, with 1,857 accessing emergency accommodation.

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Tadgh McNally

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