There are now almost 10,000 people homeless across Ireland, including 3,755 children, according to the latest figures from the Department of Housing.
The increase in the number of homeless children, by almost 500, between January and February, is largest monthly increase since current data gathering began, in mid-2014. The figures have been described as “shocking”, “unacceptable” and indicative of a crisis “spiralling out of control”.
The monthly homelessness report from the department shows for the week of 20th to 26th February there were 9,807 people homeless, including 3,755 children in 1,739 families.
This compares with 22nd to 28th January, when there were 9,104 people homeless, including 3,267 children in 1,517 families.
In February 2017, there were 7,421 people homeless, including 2,546 children in 1,239 families. This represents a 32 per increase in overall homelessness, a 40 per cent increase in family homelessness, and a 47 per cent increase in the number of homeless children.
Focus Ireland, the lead agency working with homeless families in Dublin, said the Government was "failing to tackle the deepening crisis".
Chief Executive Pat Dennigan said: "There has been an unacceptable 40 per cent increase in family homelessness in Ireland in the last year and we believe that this shows that the Government strategy is failing.
“Focus Ireland firmly believes that the Government must act to take the decisions it has shied away from for several years. This includes actively building social housing, taxing those who hoard building land and protecting the rights of tenants facing eviction.”
In Dublin, there are now 2,801 homeless children in 1,329 families, compared with 2,509 in 1,191 families in January. A year ago the figures were 2,129 children in 1,055 families in Dublin.
Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy said the figures seemed to "indicate a very worrying trend".
“Following the January report, I asked the Dublin Region Homeless Executive for a report on new issues that they informed me had arisen in the course of their outreach work. The DRHE has recently written to me and their report is nearing completion.
“It is likely that additional policy responses will be needed to address these new trends. I have also asked the new Inter-Agency group to expedite its report regarding better coordination of government resources. Both these reports will come in April and we will move swiftly to implement any recommendations from them.
“Tackling homelessness is a priority for this Government. My priority as Minister in the first instance is to get people off the streets and to get children out of hotels.”
Lack of supply
He pointed to the lack of supply as the main cause for the rise in the number of families presenting as homeless.
He added: “All of the trends, all of the indicators are pointing to a very dramatic increase in housing supply over the course of 2018 and into 2019 and as those homes are built, they are going to have an impact in reducing the number of people in homeless accommodation.”
The Minister told reporters there are new trends emerging in the homeless statistics but declined to state what they are. He said such trends had been brought to his attention by the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive but declined to state what they are.
“Every day, every week, we are putting homeless families into tenancies or into social houses. This year we will support 26,000 people into social housing supported homes so my message to those people is that we are working every week to try to get you into sustainable accommodation.”
Eoin Ó Broin, Sinn Féin spokesman on housing said: “The February homeless figures . . . confirm that homelessness and in particular child and family homelessness is spiralling out of control.”
Mick Barry TD said the figures showed a "shocking escalation in the crisis".
“Minister Eoghan Murphy carries full responsibility for the rapidly escalating housing crisis. The Minister, wedded to failed pro-landlord, market-based policies, is exacerbating the crisis.
“We need an immediate ban on economic evictions, we need rent controls to make rental housing affordable, and we need large scale building of public housing. There can be no further delays”.