The number of people in emergency accommodation in Ireland topped 11,000 last month, the highest number on record.
New data released by the Department of Housing shows that there were 11,397 people in emergency shelter in October.
The Monthly Homelessness Report shows that 7,917 adults and 1,601 families accessed emergency housing in the month, including 3,480 children.
Figures for September saw 10,975 people in emergency shelter, an increase of 1.6% on the previous month.
The 11,397 men, women and children in emergency accommodation for the homeless in October represent an increase of 3.85% (422 people) in one month and 29% (2,567 people) compared to the same period last year.
Of these, 1,601 were homes, which is 69 (4.5%) more than the previous month. The number of single adults increased by 162 (3.1%) to 5,320.
There was an increase of 138 (4.1%) children/employees, amounting to 3,480.
There were 1,318 young people between the ages of 18 and 24. This is an increase of 55 (4.3%) from the prior month (1,263) and 265 (25%) year-over-year from 1,053 in October 2021.
Record numbers were seen in nearly every category, including record numbers of adults (7,917), single adults (5,320), adult men (4,974), adult women (2,943), and people ages 18-24 (1,318), people ages 25 to 44 years. (4,258) and people aged 45 to 65 (2,179).
Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said the figures released today are of “grave concern” to the Government.
Speaking at the lawn preview at a new women’s shelter in Co Wexford, he said the government must “redouble its efforts” to increase the supply of social housing.
He said the figures were from October, before the emergency measure’s winter eviction ban, and she hoped more could be done to generate more social housing in the coming months.
Asked if the figures were a sign that the government’s housing policy is failing, he said that the Housing for All plan is barely a year old and that ten or twelve years of housing shortages are not resolved in one year.
Asked if he accepted that the country was in the midst of a housing crisis, Minister O’Brien said there was no question that for people experiencing homelessness, expecting social housing or paying high rents, it was “absolutely a emergency”.
Minister O’Brien acknowledged that it had been a “challenge” for homeless people, saying the government wanted to do everything possible to reduce the number of homeless people.
The minister also admitted that there was a problem in the private rental market and said that the exit of the landlords’ market was causing a particular problem.
Simon Communities of Ireland described the “shocking figures” as confirmation of the need for a moratorium on evictions, which will take effect from November to March 2023.
The charity is calling on the government to make 2023 the year of handover with emergency actions taken while the moratorium is in effect.
Otherwise, it said, there will continue to be increases in homelessness similar to when the Covid-19 moratorium was lifted.
It called on the government to target the 166,000 vacant homes across the country and place as many of them as possible in the public housing inventory.
It said this comes “on the back of recent reports of underspend of the budget to build public housing and slow turnaround in vacancy local authority properties”, reports RTE.
Wayne Stanley, head of policy and communications at Ireland’s Simon Communities, said the 11,397 people facing Christmas in emergency homeless accommodation is “completely unacceptable”.
The “number of homeless people” is now at “unacceptable levels”, according to Depaul Ireland.
Chief Executive David Carroll lamented that “no longer a sense of shock and awe” around the rising numbers, reports RTE.
In a statement, he described the “temporary interruption” to homelessness as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, as “artificial.”
Depaul has called for a review of Housing for All to “reset” the social housing targets needed to provide more housing.
According to the charity, any increase in housing supply must be directed towards the social housing sector and immediate steps must be taken to increase supply.
It also called on the Housing Commission to urgently review the structural issues necessary to reform the sector and increase the housing supply.
Depaul Ireland also said the government’s housing supply targets should be raised from 30,000 to 40,000.
Focus Ireland defense director Mike Allen said the target had not been achieved and even if it was, it was still not enough.
Speaking to RTÉ’s News at One, Allen said those who suffer the most are the most vulnerable; young people leaving guardianship, single-parent families, people with disabilities and people with mental health problems.
He said that the exit of small private owners from the market is “the immediate crisis.”
Landlords who are selling their properties should be contacted directly to discuss why they are leaving the rental market, he said, adding that the winter eviction ban was “very welcome” and will save several hundred families since they lost their homes before Christmas.
But he insisted that the government must use this five-month “breath” to act.
“There are 1,000 landlords who have given notice of termination because they are selling the properties,” he said, reports RTE.
He added: “It’s only 1,000 phone calls, if we can’t make 1,000 phone calls, we can’t build thousands of homes,” reports RTE.
Mr. Allen said that the Department of Housing could work with the Residential Leasing Board, which is a state agency, to access the details of each of these landlords.
He also said that he was concerned that people would think that the homelessness crisis is a “natural phenomenon and there is nothing we can do about it.”
Focus Ireland campaign coordinator Louise Bayliss said there was not enough urgency to address the growing number of homeless people.
“Things have to happen – landlords exiting the market, social housing – we need to support people who are at risk of that,” reports RTE.
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