The number of young homeless people reached a record high last month, as Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien said the continued rise in the number of people accessing emergency accommodation is a "serious concern".
According to figures from the Department of Housing, published on Friday, there were 9,825 homeless individuals in March 2022, an increase of 333 (3.5 per cent) on the February 2022 total.
However, the number remains 7 per cent lower than the highest level recorded in October 2019.
Of those who were homeless last month, 1,238 were families, representing a 5 per cent increase on the previous month. There were 2,811 children or dependents accessing emergency accommodation, up 5.4 per cent on the previous month.
There were also 5,143 single adults homeless last month, up 236 or 5 percent from the previous month. This is the first time this figure has exceeded 5,000 since the department began recording homeless data.
Some 1,230 of the people accessing homeless accommodation last month were young people aged 18 to 24, the highest number of young people in homelessness on record in the department.
This is up 71 (6.1 per cent) on the previous month and up 450 (58 per cent) year on year.
Wayne Stanley, head of policy and communication at the Simon Communities of Ireland, said the country is now close to pre-pandemic levels of homelessness.
“In the face of this crisis, we need immediate action. The Minister can with the stroke of a pen increase the HAP [Housing Assistance Payment] rates and take pressure off households vulnerable to homelessness, the rates have not increased since 2016 and the need has never been more urgent,” he said.
Pat Dennigan, chief executive of Focus Ireland, raised concerns around the number of single adults who are entering homelessness.
“While the number of families homeless fell during the pandemic, during the period when the Government banned no-fault evictions, the number of single people homeless continued to rise month after month during this time,” he said.
“Hitting a new unprecedented level of over 5,000 single people in emergency homeless accommodation in March should be a moment of national shame and deep reconsideration.”
He added: “Over the intervening years we have been much better at building new homeless shelters than we have been at building new social homes, and that must change.”
Caoimhe O'Connell, spokeswoman for the Dublin Simon Community, said they are "very frustrated but not surprised" by the continued rise in the number of people in emergency accommodation.
“The need to increase housing supply is central while sufficient budget and human resources must be put in place as a matter of urgency.”
Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien described the continued increase in the number of people accessing emergency accommodation as a “serious concern”.
“The Government, local authorities and others are making every effort to reduce homelessness. Key to this is the delivery of new social housing and boosting overall supply,” he said.
“The Government is investing significantly in social and affordable housing, with a record €4 billion allocated for current and capital investment in housing this year alone. Funding is in place to deliver 11,800 social homes, including 9,000 new build homes, building on the progress made last year when 9,183 new social homes were provided, a 17 per cent increase on 2020.”
Mr O’Brien added that the first draft of the Youth Homelessness Strategy, which aims to identify the causes and necessary actions to assist those aged 18 to 24 from becoming homeless, has been completed. The strategy is expected to be published later this year.