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Opposition politicians and homelessness charities are demanding government take action. Shutterstock

Homelessness: Children in emergency accommodation tops 4,000 for first time

Official figures show 9,409 adults and 4,105 children were in emergency accommodation in November.


THE NUMBER OF people homeless has once again reached a record high, with 13,514 people accessing emergency accommodation in November.

According to the latest figures from the Department of Housing, 9,409 adults and a record 4,105 children were in emergency accommodation in November.

The figures are an increase of 335 compared with October, when there were 13,179 people in emergency accommodation.

The number of children homeless in Ireland has also reached a record high, up from 3,911 in October. This number has increased by 194 children since.

Wayne Stanley, executive director of the Simon Communities of Ireland, a charity which support homeless families, said: “This shocking level of homelessness documented in the figures released today must be placed into context.

“Each of the men, women, and 4,105 children that these figures represent are experiencing a preventable trauma.

“That level of suffering demands action,” he added.

Fellow-homelessness charity Focus Ireland have also called for the government to take action to curb the now ten-month-long increase in the number of people in emergency accomodation.

CEO of the charity Pat Dennigan said: “2024 must be the year the government makes a different approach to homelessness and uses all available resources to reduce the number of people who are homeless, particularly those who are homeless for long periods.”

Dennigan said the government “appears to be overwhelmed by the problem of providing emergency accommodation for people who are homeless along with people who are here seeking international protection”.

He said the government should stop viewing these issues as “competing challenges” and instead should focus on “maximizing the number of long-term homeless households moving out of homeless accommodation and into their own home”.

Dennigan suggests that this this would free up emergency accommodation for asylum seekers and Ukrainian refugees.

“This is an entirely achievable objective,” he said. “In the last two years more social housing has been delivered than for many years, but we are not using this resource to its best effect in reducing homelessness.”

A ‘shameful start’ to 2024

Sinn Féin TD and party spokesperson for Housing Eoin Ó Broin said rising levels of homelessness are further evidence that the government’s housing plan is “failing”.

“Over Christmas, the Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said that any reasonable person looking at the evidence would conclude that the government’s housing plan is working.

“In fact, any reasonable person looking at today’s figures would draw only one conclusion: the government’s housing plan is not only failing, it is making things worse,” Ó Broin added.

He added: “How long will Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael allow these homeless numbers to increase?”

Social Democrats TD Cian O’Callaghan has said the figures reflect a “shameful” start to 2024 and a “damning indictment of failed government housing policy”.

O’Callaghan said: “Behind the grim statistics are stories of real people enduring hardship and putting their lives on hold.

Homelessness can have devastating and lasting consequences for childhoods and family life.”

O’Callaghan pinned the now ten-month trend of increases on the government’s decision to lift the eviction ban in March 2023, adding that it was “inexplicable as there is clear evidence to show that it was making a difference”.

“It is no coincidence that child homelessness has risen every month since the eviction ban was lifted,” he added.

Both TDs highlighted that the number of people in emergency accommodation has increased by 55% since the current government came into power four years ago.

Labour TD and party leader Ivana Bacik said November’s figures “underscore the reality that many thousands of people ended last year trapped in homelessness, locked out of accessing a safe and secure home”.

“To have one person unable to find a home is unacceptable but these numbers are intolerable,” the TD said.

The government must turn the tide on this national scandal. It is simply not good enough to repeat the line that ‘we have turned a corner on housing’.”

Bacik added: “Such language does a disservice to those for whom home ownership is a pipe dream, to those living pay-cheque to pay-cheque, and to those who have been driven to sleep in emergency accommodation or even on our streets.”

‘The primary solution is a home’

CEO of the Simon Communities Wayne Stanley said: “We know that the primary solution to homelessness is a home. Up to very recently, governments have been heavily reliant on the private rental market to address social housing need.”

Stanley said there are a “multitude of reports” that now outline the difficulty of finding a home in the private market, adding that it is “no longer a viable answer to homelessness at the scale that we see today”. 

He added: “Addressing the current homelessness crisis will require government to work with local authorities to ensure more secure affordable homes are made available to those in homelessness and that we see increased delivery of social housing in the years ahead. ”

The chief executive of the charity said the government needs to place a “renewed commitment” to keeping those at risk of homelessness in a home.

He said this can be done by progressing bills through the Oireachtas, such as the Simon Homeless Prevention Bill, and building the capacity of the tenant-in-situ scheme.

As of October 2023, just two properties were acquired under this scheme – which is directed towards households who are renting a property and facing eviction, but who are not eligible for social housing supports like the Housing Assistance Payment or the Rental Accommodation Scheme.

CEO of Focus Ireland, Pat Dennigan said his suggestion to government to focus efforts on housing long-term homeless households is “achievable” and if a “fairer share” of new social housing was allocated to the group, the “harm caused by homelessness” would be reduced.

“Homelessness is profoundly traumatic for everyone, but it inflicts the greatest harm on children,” Dennigan said.

“It is truly devastating that an unprecedented 4,105 children were homeless in November when other children were preparing for Christmas.

“As a society, we need to progress beyond merely expressing disappointment at the recurring record-breaking homelessness figures each month and start doing things that change the situation such as a fairer share of social housing,” he added.

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