Fewer homeless people, but increase in families bereft of home

Second consecutive month in which number of families without place to call their own has risen

Focus Ireland characterised the decision to lift eviction protections for families before the coronavirus pandemic is over as ‘dangerous and uncompassionate’. File photograph: Getty

Focus Ireland characterised the decision to lift eviction protections for families before the coronavirus pandemic is over as ‘dangerous and uncompassionate’. File photograph: Getty

 

The number of homeless people dropped by 91 last month to 7,991, the latest figures show.

However, there was an increase in homeless families. At the end of May 928 families were in homeless accommodation, up three from the previous month.

There was also a significant rise in homeless single-parent families, up from 495 to 515; lone-parent families now comprise 55 per cent of all homeless families. Despite the increase in this group, the number of homeless children fell by 45 nationally.

It is the second consecutive month in which the number of families without a home has increased. But the number of such families is 24 per cent lower than this time last year. The total number of homeless people has also fell year on year by 10 per cent.

While welcoming the decline, the Simon Community homeless charity noted the figure is twice what it was in 2014 when the then housing minister described homeless numbers as a “crisis.”

“It’s also important to remember that while indicative of the crisis, these numbers do not truly capture its full scale. The numbers don’t include rough sleepers and those in squats, people in direct provision and women’s shelters, or the ‘hidden homeless’, who have no home of their own,” said spokesman Wayne Stanley.

“There is no quick fix to ending homelessness. But it’s important we see the commitment to work towards ending [it] reflected in the Minister’s housing and homeless plan next month.”

He said the recent Economic and Social Research Institute report calling for the State to double its investment in public housing is a “good benchmark” of the ambition required to tackle the crisis.

Focus Ireland said it is “deeply alarmed” at the increase in family homelessness, particularly at a time when many people are not vaccinated fully against coronavirus. Chief executive Pat Dennigan called the decision to lift eviction protections for families before the pandemic is over “dangerous and uncompassionate. Focus Ireland believes the eviction moratorium should be reintroduced for six months as the country gradually begins to open up.”

Emergency accommodation

Concern has also been expressed over the length of time single adults are spending in emergency accommodation in Dublin. Such shelter can involve people sharing living spaces with between 20 and 30 others and is unsuitable for long-term stays, said the Dublin Simon Community.

Of single homeless adults in Dublin 67 per cent are spending more than six months in such facilities. The May figures show there were 5,713 people in emergency accommodation in Dublin, an 8 per cent reduction since April.

This figure includes 1,659 children.

Manager of Dublin Simon’s Longfields Emergency Service James Hinchon said people have to remain in these facilities for longer “due to a lack of viable move-on options, particularly for single people”.

“Emergency accommodation is intended for exactly that – emergencies. It is not a home. Sharing rooms, living spaces with 20 or 30 people is not the long-term goal, and studies have shown that the longer people spend in these places the greater the risk to their health and future.”