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The number of people in emergency accommodatin has passed 10,000. File photo. Photocall Ireland

Charities sound alarm as homeless figures reach 10,000 for first time since Covid lockdown

It’s the fourth consecutive month that a rise in the number of people accessing emergency accommodation has been recorded.

LAST UPDATE | 27 May 2022

CHARITIES HAVE EXPRESSED concern after the number of homeless people in Ireland surpassed 10,000 for the first time since before the coronavirus pandemic prompted lockdown measures to be introduced. 

The latest figures from the Department of Housing show that the number of people who were homeless nationwide in the last week of April was 10,049. This represents a rise of 224 from the 9,825 homeless in March.

It represents a 24% increase in homelessness year-on-year. 

It comes as Tánaiste Leo Varadkar called the increase in homelessness “disappointing”, and said that the recent increase was due to more single people becoming homeless.

The stats for April include 7,105 adults and 2,944 children. The number of families accessing emergency accommodation during this period was 1,308.

It’s the fourth consecutive month that a rise in the number of people accessing emergency accommodation has been recorded.

Here are the key stats from the freshly released report:

  • 1,308 were families – this is 70 (5.6%) more than the previous month.
  • 4,957 were single adults – a decrease of 186 (3.6%).
  • 2,944 were children – an increase of 133 (4.7%) on March’s figure. 
  • 1,246 were young people aged 18-24 – up 16 (1.3%) on the previous month. This is the highest number of young people in homelessness on record.

Several charities that work with homeless people raised concerns about the spiralling homeless rates.

Depaul said the current state of the private rental sector is one of the main factors playing a part in homelessness.

“An immediate analysis by the Housing Commission of the private rental sector should occur in order to arrive at long term recommendations for reforms of the sector. We are fully supportive of Housing for All and redoubling efforts to deliver on the national housing plan,” it said.

The Simon Communities of Ireland said vacant homes hold real potential for helping solve the crisis.

“The time has come for a significant, sustained and well-funded programme that will bring vacant properties back into use for those experiencing or at risk of homelessness,” spokesperson Wayne Stanley said.

Focus Ireland CEO Pat Dennigan said: “It is appalling to see that the progress made through such hard work during the pandemic has so quickly been lost, and we are back to rising numbers of adults and children experiencing homelessness.

Crossing this dreadful threshold must trigger a much stronger and urgent response from the government and we must not drift to ever higher levels. 

Political reaction

The Tánaiste said that the figures in the new report were disappointing.

“It is very disappointing to see the number of people in emergency accommodation go above 10,000 again,” said Varadkar.

He added that the Government had taken steps to reduce family homelessness in recent years but that the recent spike was due to single people entering homelessness.

“It seems this increase is largely driven by single people homelessness and what that indicates once again that we need a very significant increase in the supply of one-bed apartments,” said Varadkar, adding that supported tenancies are also needed.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on housing Eoin Ó Broin said the government is to blame for the spike in homelessness over the past year.

“This government is to blame for this. It, like the government before it, while failing to provide an adequate level of new real social housing, has also failed to address the shrinking private rental sector. As a result, more and more families are experiencing homelessness,” Ó Broin said.

The Social Democrats housing spokesperson Cian O’Callaghan said the government must urgently respond to the increase.

“Ending homelessness should be a political priority, but it has fallen off the government’s agenda. This must change. The government must now take urgent action to prevent more people from becoming homeless,” O’Callaghan said.

The Social Democrats are seeking the abolition of no-fault evictions and a review of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) in order to tackle the rise of homelessness.

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