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File photo of tents on Henry Street. Leah Farrell/
Housing Crisis

Homelessness: Record high of 10,975 people in emergency accommodation last month

In total, there were 7,633 adults accessing emergency accommodation in the last week of September.

THE NUMBER OF homeless people in Ireland hit record figures last month, with almost 11,000 people accessing emergency accommodation.

The latest figures from the Department of Housing show that there were 10,975 people accessing emergency accommodation between 19 and 25 September, surpassing the previous record of August

In August, a total of 10,805 people were accessing emergency accommodation.

September is the ninth consecutive month where the number of people accessing emergency accommodation in the State has risen, and the third consecutive month where the figure has been a record high. 

In total, there were 7,633 adults who accessed emergency accommodation in the last week of September. Of those, 4,832 were male and 2,801 were female.

A majority of those people were located in Dublin, with 5,356 homeless adults reported last month.

There were also 3,342 children recorded as accessing emergency accommodation.

704 families presented as homeless in the last week of September, an increase from 654 in August, while 413 new families entered emergency accommodation compared to 402 in August.

Reacting to the record high, Focus Ireland said that the monthly figures are not an accurate reflection of the crisis.

“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,” Focus Ireland CEO Pat Dennigan said.

“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.

Legislation to allow for an eviction ban has been passed by the Dáil and Seanad and is due to be signed into law by President Michael D Higgins in the coming days.

The legislation sets out that an eviction ban will be in place between 1 November and 1 April.

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien welcomed passage of the legislation yesterday, saying it will provide for temporary stay on tenancy terminations this winter.

The Government is “very aware” of the increasing pressure on homeless services, the limited supply in the rental market and the struggles people are facing over the coming winter months, said the minister.

He said the bill’s swift passage through the Dáil and Seanad “demonstrates our collective commitment to protecting renters during this exceptional period by deferring any ‘no fault’ tenancy terminations from taking place this winter”.

Denigan said that while a no-fault eviction ban is necessary, what is “crucial” is what the Housing Minister will do for the five months that 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,” he said.

“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.”

Speaking at the launch of Cork’s first cost-rental homes today, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that housing remains “the greatest social issue facing us”. 

“We need more houses built, different types – social, affordable, and cost rental,” he said.

Figures published by the Central Statistics Office yesterday show that there were 20,807 new home completions in the first nine months of the year, greater than the total for the whole of 2021. Martin said this is “positive”. 

“It looks like we will exceed our targets of 24,500 this year and that’s good news, but we need more, and we have to work very hard to make sure we can get next year’s target and reach next year’s target, notwithstanding all of the issues that the war has brought upon us in terms of inflationary cycles, increased cost of materials, and a more difficult market overall,” he said.

“But the Central Statistics Office figures yesterday do objectively show that progress has been made in terms of building new homes in the country and it could be up to 26,000, 27,000, even more this year, which is ahead of target.”

Wayne Stanley, head of policy and communication at the Simon Communities of Ireland, said the record high figure is a “shocking confirmation of the need for the moratorium on evictions introduced by Government this week”.

“It also has to be seen as a call to action to get ahead of the crisis in the months that the moratorium is in place. That will require a new focus and ambition on issues such as vacancy,” he said.

“We believe that the moratorium on evictions will keep people, and families in particular, in their homes and protect them from ending up in emergency homeless accommodation or even on the street, over the winter period. We have to be clear that it is a welcome response to the crisis, but it is not an answer to it.”

Stanley said that Simon Communities of Ireland have proposed that Government should focus on the 166,000 vacant homes identified in the census as a way to increase social housing stock for the next two years.

“We have around 120,000 people in need of social housing between those on the social housing waiting list and people in HAP and Rent Supplement tenancies,” he said.

“If the Repair and Lease Scheme is overhauled and enhanced to bring just 3% of vacant homes into the public housing system over the next two years, this would give us an additional 5,000 homes to be allocated to those that require them, in addition to those committed to in Housing for All.”

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