Number of homeless children rises by 100 in a single month

Latest data shows 3,778 children in emergency accommodation - a ‘source of immense shame’

‘Child homelessness has now become normalised in Ireland, but it should be a source of immense shame,’ said Fr Peter McVerry. File image: istock

‘Child homelessness has now become normalised in Ireland, but it should be a source of immense shame,’ said Fr Peter McVerry. File image: istock

 

The number of homeless children across Ireland has risen by more than one hundred to 3,778, according to the latest Government figures.

A total of 10,275 people accessed emergency accommodation in July 2019, more than a third of them children.

The number of homeless adults remained unchanged between June and July at 6,497 while there were 1,721 homeless families. The number of homeless children rose by 103.

The figures, contained in the new Homeless Quarterly Progress report from the Department of Housing, showed more than 10,000 people had been homeless since February 2019. However, these numbers have been disputed by charities who say the actual number of people in homelessness first surpassed the 10,000 mark a year ago when taking into account families who were removed from figures as part of a recategorisation exercise.

Accusing the Government of “normalising” child homelessness, Fr Peter McVerry said the latest report demonstrated “the continuing failures” of the Government to safeguard children as they started a new school term.

In order to flourish in school, children needed “stable and familiar homes to provide a cornerstone for their lives, not chaotic and ad-hoc housing arrangements where they are growing up in confined spaces”, Fr McVerry said.

He added the number of homeless children had not dropped below 3,500 in the past 18 months. “Child homelessness has now become normalised in Ireland, but it should be a source of immense shame.”

David Carroll, chief executive of charity Depaul, said the latest increase in the number of children experiencing homelessness reflected the “volatility” within the housing and rental sectors. He highlighted the fact that former minister for housing Simon Coveney pledged an end to homeless families residing in hotels and B&Bs by July 2017.

Children in emergency accommodation who were starting back at school faced added stress and stigma, Mr Carroll added.

Barnardos chief executive Suzanne Connolly said living in unsuitable conditions had “long term repercussions” on children’s physical development and emotional states. She described the number without a home as “shamefully high” and called on the Government to “redouble their efforts to ensure the trauma of homelessness is not inflicted on more families”.

The total number of homeless people dropped slightly in May to 10,253 and June to 10,172 before rising in July. Numbers peaked in April 2019 when Government data showed 10,378 were accessing emergency accommodation services.

While the numbers of people without homes continue to rise, 2,825 adults and children were moved from emergency accommodation into long-term housing in the first half of 2019, a 21 per cent increase on the same period in 2018. This includes 467 families in Dublin where “the crisis is greatest”, according to the Department of Housing.

The Housing First programme continues to be rolled out with 417 adults housed in Dublin by the end of June 2019, said the report.

However, only one in five of those who left emergency accommodation were provided housing through local authority lettings .

Focus Ireland said its own homelessness figures revealed a 70 per cent increase in the number of families who became homeless in Dublin with 124 families (including 263 children) facing homeless in July, up from 73 the previous month.

This rapid increase in homeless families in Dublin revealed the State’s “failure to stem the flow of families and individuals into homelessness every month, said Focus Ireland chief executive Pat Dennigan.

The charity has called for a full review of the Rebuilding Ireland programme so that decisions can be made to actively build more social housing and protect tenants’ rights while taxing those who “hoard building land”. Focus Ireland also repeated its call for a “cast-iron deadline” to ensure no family or individual was homeless for longer than six months.

Responding to the latest figures, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said the homelessness crisis was “a huge challenge” but noted fewer families and children were in emergency accommodation when compared with this time last year. “Of course there shouldn’t be any, but the fact that there are less, despite continuing high levels of presentations each month, speaks to the huge response from NGOs, the DRHE, local authorities and the Government,” said Mr Murphy.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One programme, the Minister said people on the housing list would not be forced to move elsewhere and that the focus was to keep people in their own community.

The important thing was for people in emergency accommodation to get the best care and security so they would not be “in the same trouble a year down the line”, he said.