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Progress made in reducing homeless figures at start of pandemic now being eroded, charities say

The latest figures show that there were 8,313 men, women and children in emergency accommodation in January.

File photo
File photo
Image: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

THE NUMBER OF people homeless in Ireland rose slightly last month, up from 8,200 to 8,313.

Of these, 5,987 are adults and 2,326 are children. 

The increase in January comes after numbers usually dip for the month of December. 

The number of families homeless last month was 966, which included 1,430 adults.

Dublin accounts for 70% of all homeless people in Ireland, while neighbouring counties Kildare, Meath and Wicklow account for another 5%. 

Charities have expressed concern at the increased numbers of single adults in emergency accommodation.

There were 4,557 single adults in Ireland last month, an increase of 4% on the same time last year. While there are still a large number of families in emergency accommodation, this has fallen 40% compared to January 2020. 

Wayne Stanley, national spokesperson for the Simon Communities of Ireland, said that a “chronic, structural lack of appropriate affordable housing” was continuing to exacerbate the problem. 

“While the suggestions from government that the 5km limit may be eased in April will be a welcome relief for most of us, it will mean a lifting of the moratorium on evictions, which is linked to the 5km rule,” he said. “So this relief for the majority will be a disaster for families and single people at imminent risk of homelessness. 

The Governor of the Central Bank said recently that the economy might rebound at the end of 2021 as pent-up savings and demand give us an economic boost. However, there’s no pent-up housing and a growing economy with no housing will see homeless numbers rise.

Focus Ireland also said that it was concerned by the increase, which comes after “significant progress” in reducing the number of people homeless during Covid-19 through the eviction ban and collaboration between charities, local authorities and the State.

It said the latest figures confirm the long-term trend of rising homelessness among single people, which rose by 110 last month. 

Analysis from the charity in its latest edition of Focus on Homelessness has pointed to worrying trends according to its director of advocacy Mike Allen. 

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He said: “The return to an increase in the monthly homeless figures is deeply concerning, particularly in the middle of a pandemic and Level 5 lockdown.

“But by taking a longer perspective we can understand the real nature of what is happening – and so revealing needed if we are to help solve the crisis. As shown by this special edition of ‘Focus on Homelessness’, there are sharp divergences across regions and household types – homelessness among single people in Dublin has continued to rise since before the pandemic and continued to rise during it.”

Allen said that it was likely many entering homelessness come from the private rental market, indicating a “revolving door” effect that is trapping at-risk people between unstable rentals and emergency accommodation. 

He added: “However, particularly during the Covid-19 period, family breakdowns and people having to give up informal housing arrangements, such as sofa-surfers, no doubt account for a proportion of its too.

“There is still a huge shortage of one-bed apartments in Ireland, which would be the preferred accommodation for many of the single adults who are becoming trapped in this system.”

About the author:

Sean Murray

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