Fewer rough sleepers in Dublin, but more need emergency beds

Ninety-one people sleeping rough on November 30th for annual winter count

Ninety-one people were sleeping rough on November 30th - the night when the annual winter rough-sleeper count is carried out. This was compared with 168 on that night in 2014.  File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Ninety-one people were sleeping rough on November 30th - the night when the annual winter rough-sleeper count is carried out. This was compared with 168 on that night in 2014. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

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The number of people sleeping rough in Dublin has fallen by 46 per cent since last winter, the latest figures show. However, the number of adults in emergency beds has increased by over 50 per cent in the same period, and by far higher numbers.

A total of 91 people were found sleeping rough on the night of the annual winter rough-sleeper count, on November 30th. This compares with 168 sleeping rough in the 2014 winter count.

However the number of adults in emergency accommodation in Dublin has increased in the same period by 804, from 1,526 in November 2014 to 2,330 in September – an increase of 52 per cent.

This does not include the 1,425 children also in emergency accommodation in Dublin, in October, an increase of 110 per cent on the 680 homeless children in October last year.

On the night of the count there were, in addition, 61 people in the Merchants Quay night-café, a facility not open during last year’s winter count, meaning the number of people not accessing emergency bed was 152.

While last year’s count was conducted on November 21st, several weeks before the opening of 270 additional emergency beds, this year’s was on November 30th, a week after the opening of 100 additional emergency beds.

Additional single beds

Since the beginning of November, the DRHE, which co-ordinates homelessness services across the capital, has put in place 195 additional single beds, 55 additional units for families and couples and 80 additional family rooms.

There has been a 71 per cent increase in emergency bed capacity since November last year – from 2,197 beds to 3,766 now, according to the DRHE.

NGOs working in the sector welcomed the fall in numbers sleeping rough, but pointed out this came on the back of a significant increase in bed capacity, highlighting the “serious challenges” the homelessness crisis still posed.

Pat Doyle, chief executive of the Peter McVerry Trust, said despite the “major efforts” of all involved, “we still see numbers sleeping rough that are unacceptably high”. He had expected the numbers still rough-sleeping to be lower.

Affordable housing

Mike Allen, director of advocacy with Focus Ireland said the numbers showed the underlying shortage of affordable housing was not being addressed.

Paying tribute to the “hard work” of the DRHE in providing the additional beds, he said however emergency beds would not stem the numbers coming into homelessness. “We need increased provision of social homes to do this.”

Dublin Simon Community said despite all the efforts numbers sleeping rough remained “shamefully high”. DePaul said the while fall in rough sleeping was “commendable”, the severity of the homelessness problem in Dublin remained high.

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly, was “pleased to see that the numbers sleeping rough to have fallen.

“While even one rough sleeper is one too many, progress is welcome. No one will sleep rough in Dublin this winter for want of a bed – there are beds available for anybody who wishes to avail of them,” he said.

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