A slight fall in homelessness last month shows the eviction ban “was working”, homelessness charities said on Friday, amid warnings the State was about to “enter a new phase of homelessness” as the ban is lifted from Saturday.
The latest data published by the Department of Housing shows the number of people accessing emergency accommodation in the State fell slightly in February to 11,742 – a drop of 12 individuals from the previous month – but numbers continue to increase in Dublin.
The figures, published on Friday, also show a new high in the number of homeless, single adults of which there were 5,736 – the biggest number since current records began in 2014.
In January there were 5,670 adults without children in emergency accommodation.
During the week of February 20th-26th there were 8,369 adults and 3,373 children in emergency accommodation. Among these were 1,599 families of which 876 (53 per cent) were headed by lone parents.
These numbers represent a 23 per cent increase in the total number of homeless in a year – from 9,492 in February 2022. The number of families in homelessness has risen by 35.5 per cent in a year – from 1,180, while the number of single adults has gone up by 17 per cent, from 4,907.
Wayne Stanley, executive director of the Simon Communities of Ireland, welcomed the “small” reduction.
“What these figures suggest is that the moratorium, was doing its work, particularly for families, and keeping people out of homelessness,” he said.
“Unfortunately, it’s ending today but had it continued and the State taken action to step up initiatives to prevent and address homelessness, there was the potential to make some real and sustained progress.”
Roughan MacNamara, head of communications with Focus Ireland which leads the NGO response to family homelessness, described the Government’s pressing ahead with lifting the ban as “heartless” and the “failure to listen” to homelessness organisations on the issue as “deeply alarming”.
He said: “We had warned the Government this decision means we are about to enter a new phase of homelessness where we are likely to see families sleeping on the street because they have been evicted and emergency accommodation is full.
“Focus Ireland and other organisations work closely with the Government, meeting on a regular basis and we feel have been completely ignored as we have been warning about this reality.”
David Carroll, chief executive of Depaul which works with some of the most vulnerable homeless adults, described the figures as “heartbreaking” and said: “ “We are very anxious of what may come in the next few weeks and we are focusing on a number of aspects that may occur – one of which is the health impact of the removal of the eviction ban.
“We are mindful that people with complex vulnerabilities may end up in homelessness and the role of the HSE will be crucial ... Our experience is that homelessness worsens health conditions and if people enter homelessness, there will be inevitable health consequences.”
[ Eviction ban: ‘Horror movie’ for tenants as thousands face possible eviction from tomorrow ]
The Dublin Simon Community urged anyone facing an eviction to “try not to panic”. Chief executive, Catherine Kenny, said to them: “You have rights, and there are knowledgeable people who can help you to understand what they are and support you.”
She continued: “. We are at a tipping point in our national history. How we approach the months ahead will determine our cultural attitudes and commitment to solving and addressing homelessness.”
Cian O’Callaghan, Social Democrats housing spokesman, said the February figures showed the homelessness figures had “finally stabilised” after 13 consecutive months increasing. “This shows that the eviction ban was working and that it has been effective in reducing the flow of people getting evicted into homelessness.”
The small reduction of 12 in the overall number between January and February appears to have been achieved through a slight reduction in families and children in homelessness outside Dublin. Overall the number of children fell from 3,431 in January to 3,373, and families from 1,609 to 1,599.
In Dublin, however, numbers continue to climb across most cohorts. The total in emergency accommodation in the capital was 8,588 in February, including 2,576 children in 1,169 families.
This compares with 8,523 homeless in Dublin in January – including 2,577 children in 1,165 families. The number of single adults increased from 3,943 to 4,004 in one month.
Compared with February 2022, the total increase in homeless numbers in Dublin is 28 per cent – from 6,707. In children the year-on-year increase is 29 per cent, from 1,196; in families it’s 37 per cent, from 851, and in single people it’s 23 per cent from 3,256.