Record number of homeless people in State as figure passes 11,000

Minister says tackling crisis ‘remains a top priority for Government’ as charities criticise ‘shameful’ trend

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has said there is “no shortage of will or determination to deal with the issue of homelessness” as numbers in emergency accommodation pass 11,000 for the first time since current records began in 2014.

Data published by his department on Friday shows that during the week of October 24th to October 30th there were 11,397 people, including 3,480 children, in emergency accommodation.

This is an increase of more than 400 on the September figure of 10,975, of which 3,342, were children and was itself a record high. It represents an almost 30 per cent increase in one year, from 8,830 people (2,513 children) in emergency accommodation in October 2021.

In July 2014, when current records began, there were 3,258 people in emergency accommodation.


“Unfortunately we have seen a very significant increase in the numbers of people experiencing homelessness in the past month,” the minister said on Friday evening. “This further emphasises the absolute need for the winter eviction moratorium, which is in place from November until April 1st next year.”

Tackling homelessness “remains a top priority for our Government,” he continued. “Resources and funding are not an obstacle to the urgent efforts required. We will use the time of the moratorium period to accelerate the delivery of much-needed social homes which will help those who are experiencing homelessness.”

Consistently more than half the families in homelessness are headed by lone parents. Last month 882 (55 per cent) of the 1,601 families were headed by single-parents, most of them mothers.

The new record has been described as “shameful”, “devastating”, and “morally wrong” by agencies working at the frontline of the crisis. They have said Government’s “bad” housing policies are “not working”.

Pat Dennigan, chief executive of Focus Ireland, said: “In the face of these shameful figures, it is important to remind ourselves that homelessness is not inevitable. It is not a natural phenomenon, it is the result of bad policies and can be ended, over time, with better policies delivered with urgency.”

He added: “the failure of successive governments has led to a crisis where nearly 3,500 children will spend Christmas in emergency accommodation. Too many of these children were born into homelessness this year and will spend their first ever Christmas in this world as homeless. Words cannot properly express how morally wrong it is that this is happening.”

Dublin Simon said the figures were devastating and heartbreaking. “Among this group is a growing cohort of older people presenting to emergency accommodation services. In the last 12 months, the number of people aged 65 and older residing in emergency accommodation has grown by 39 per cent,” it said in a statement.

The Simon Communities said the figures confirmed the need for the moratorium on evictions, due to run until April. It said the Government must take “emergency action... while the moratorium is in place. Otherwise we will face continued increases in homelessness as seen when the Covid 19 moratorium was lifted”.

It called on Government “to focus on the 166,000 vacant homes... and to bring as many as possible into the public housing stock”.

Eoin Ó Broin, Sinn Féin spokesman on housing, said the “surge” in homelessness was because Government’s social and affordable housing targets were both too low and not being met.

“While the winter ban on evictions, introduced from November 1st will, provide some temporary relief for those who would otherwise be at risk of homelessness, it will not solve the underlying problem,” he said.

“Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien must introduce an emergency package of measures to both reduce the numbers of people presenting as homeless and to speed up people’s exit from emergency accommodation.”

Mr Ó Broin said: “Any emergency package of measures must include a more aggressive tenant-in-situ scheme; up front funding to councils to bring vacant and derelict homes into use more quickly; use of high-quality modular building technologies; and emergency planning powers.”

Social Democrat housing spokesman Cian O’Callaghan, referring to findings by the National Oversight and Audit Commission that over 4,000 council homes are vacant, said: “The fact that thousands of publicly owned homes are sitting empty is a slap in the face to those who are struggling to put a roof over their head. Sadly, however, it is indicative of this Government’s attitude to tackling the housing crisis”.

The greatest concentration of homelessness is in Dublin, where the figures show there were 8,087 homeless people, including 2,529 children in October. These numbers compare with 7,785 (including 2,429 children) in September and 6,335 (including 1,903 children) in October 2021.

In terms of adults with no children in emergency accommodation, there were 5,320 in October, up from 5,158 in September, and from 4,565 in a year ago – a 16 per cent increase.

In Dublin there were 3,673 homeless single adults last month, up from 3,542 in September and from 3,085 in October 2021.

Nationalities of adults recorded last month show 62 per cent of homeless adults were Irish, 21 per cent were from the European Economic Area (EEA) or UK and 17 per cent were from outside the EEA/UK.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times