Number of homeless people climbs above 10,000 for first time

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy ‘hugely disappointed’ with increase

The Peter McVerry Trust has pointed out the Government’s figures do not include people sleeping rough.

The Peter McVerry Trust has pointed out the Government’s figures do not include people sleeping rough.

 

Figures showing the number of homeless people in the State climbed above 10,000 for the first time last month, have been described as “hugely Homeless Crisisdisappointing” by the Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy.

Official statistics from the Department of Housing showed 6,480 adults and 3,784 children/dependants accessed emergency accommodation during the week beginning  February 18th,  a total of 10,264 people.

This represents an increase of 277 people on the January figures, including a rise of more than 160 in the number of homeless children/dependants to 3784.

The Peter McVerry Trust has pointed out the figures do not include people sleeping rough, people couch surfing, homeless people in hospitals and prisons, those in direct provision centres, and homeless households in domestic violence refuges.

“The increase in homelessness in February is hugely disappointing,” said Mr Murphy. “Our plans to fix the supply of both social and private housing are working and this is borne out by the most recent build figures.

Despite new figures showing rent rates falling at the end of the year “ still we see more people entering emergency accommodation,” he said.

He said he was working with local authorities to help “move families out of emergency accommodation and into sustainable housing solutions”.

“As well as the increased supply of social housing, HAP [Housing Assistant Payments] will continue to play a vital role in providing families with a place to live until supply catches up. We will continue to work with families to demonstrate the benefits of this scheme over emergency accommodation.”

Mr Murphy said “further reforms” to the rental sector with new protections for the most vulnerable in the housing sector will be coming before Cabinet in the coming days. These will include longer notice periods, and details are to be published next week.

Focus Ireland chief executive Pat Dennigan said the latest increase must be treated as “a line in the sand” in tackling was has become an “ever deepening crisis”.

“Despite all the good work being done, it is clear that current Government policy is failing to tackle the scale of the crisis,” he said. “Reaching this appalling threshold must be a line in the sand that helps bring some honest reflection.

“For the last few months the Government has been accused of repeatedly redefining ‘homelessness’ to avoid reaching the 10,000 figure. This spin has been a distraction and the spotlight must now return to what needs to be done to fix the problem.”

Mr Dennigan said the State must focus on building more houses rather than more emergency accommodation.

Depaul chief executive Kerry Anthony said the increase last month was “hugely disheartening”.

“The numbers have now risen two months in a row, each time representing a new record for those experiencing homelessness in Ireland,” she said.

“To see the figures reach over 10,000 is hugely disheartening.

“It indicates that many challenges remain with regards to homelessness in Ireland. We need to be continuously looking at and monitoring the reasons behind these increases. However, it is not enough to identify the reasons.