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Slight drop in latest homeless figures, charities raise 'grave concerns' over recent deaths

The number of families accessing emergency accommodation has increased to 1,128.

Image: Sasko Lazarov

THE NUMBER OF people in Ireland in emergency accommodation slightly decreased last month, according to the latest figures from the Department of Housing, but charities say more progress is needed to ensure more people find a home in time for Christmas.  

New homeless statistics show that 8,656 individuals were in emergency accommodation in September – a decrease of 46 from the figures from August.

Last month, there were 6,073 adults and 2,583 children in emergency accommodation. 

The number of families accessing emergency accommodation has shown a small increase, up by eight to 1,128.

Charities welcomed the drop in overall figures but called for the eviction ban to be extended as the number of families in emergency accommodation has continued to rise. 

Focus Ireland said that only introducing a moratorium on evictions during Level 5 may not be enough to prevent vulnerable households from being evicted into situations where there is a high risk of contracting and spreading Covid-19.

“A broader eviction ban for level 4 & 5 restrictions will help to prevent homeless services from becoming stretched to breaking point during the winter months,” Focus Ireland CEO Pat Dennigan said. 

Dennigan added that he is “deeply concerned” about reports of further deaths of people who are homeless over the last week.

“The circumstances of each death are often complex but it is clear that further measures are needed to allow all services to focus resources on keeping people who are homeless safe and provide them with homes much more quickly.” 

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ICHH CEO Anthony Flynn said he has grave concerns that we will see a number of further deaths on our streets if immediate action isn’t taken by the Minister.

“We have also had one of the most heartbreaking and infuriating weeks in homeless services with the tragic deaths of five people in the space of a week,” he said.

“While I welcome the overall reduction in the number of people that are homeless I would have major concerns over the increase in homeless families. We should not be in a position where 1,128 families are living in emergency accommodation during the year of a global pandemic.

“We have consistently pointed to the lack of wrap around supports and safe, secure accommodation as the reason we aren’t eradicating homelessness and things will continue to get worse.”

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien offered his condolences to the families of those who have died while accessing homeless services.

“I know that it’s vital we continue to deliver the appropriate measures to ensure that all individuals experiencing homelessness are supported to exit homelessness into permanent housing and that those with complex health and mental health needs are supported and cared for,” he said.

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Labour Senator Rebecca Moynihan said while the figures have stabilised, the numbers haven’t gone “significantly backwards”.

“The stabilisation in the number of people homeless is a result of the eviction ban that the Minister was forced to recently reintroduce, and which Labour believes must be extended until March,” said Moynihan. 

“The Minister needs to ensure that the more resources are allocated towards housing first tenancies for individuals with complex needs. Given the number of people who have died sleeping on our streets, he needs to urgently fast track this funding to create additional housing first tenancies.”

Moynihan added that the €22 million allocated to homelessness programmes in the recent budget is insufficient, urging preventive action in the form of additional funding “before we are faced with potentially more deaths and even infected people sleeping rough”.

In a statement from the Department of Housing, O’Brien states that Budget 2021 makes provision for €218 million in funding for homeless services next year.  

“The increased funding will allow for a greater focus on preventing homelessness in the first instance while also ensuring that pathways out of homelessness for those individuals and families in emergency accommodation are secured as quickly as possible.  This reflects the priority that I as Minister and this Government is giving to homelessness.”

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