The number of homeless people continued to fall in March, dropping below 10,000, amid warnings against complacency in the aftermath of Covid-19 restrictions being lifted.
New figures published on Thursday shows there were a total of 6,552 adults and 3,355 children in emergency accommodation during a week in March, totalling 9,907. That represents a 2.3 per cent decrease on February’s number (10,148), a trend cautiously welcomed by homeless charities.
The Simon Communities of Ireland said the decrease was anticipated but welcome and reflected decisive measures taken to prevent people entering homelessness during the public health emergency.
Since the Covid-19 crisis began, 600 new places had been secured with the promise of more to come where necessary.
"We hope to see another fall next month. This would be real progress," said Simon Communities spokesman Wayne Stanley.
“We know that there are many individuals and families who were on the brink of homelessness who have been supported to remain in their home due to the moratorium on evictions for the duration of the crisis. Once the health crisis eases, we need to ensure that there are preventative supports in place to help these families and individuals stay out of homeless emergency accommodation.”
Similarly, Focus Ireland chief executive Pat Dennigan said the fall in the number had been "widely predicted" not just because of the anti-eviction measures but also the number of Airbnb lettings coming back onto the rental market.
Mr Dennigan said the work his charity had done to help families secure homes during the month was “more important than ever as the public health emergency throws a revealing light on the inadequacies of emergency accommodation”.
Both charities said that the reducing numbers showed a need for an incoming government to expand on measures brought in during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Focus Ireland said emergency measures that have helped reduce homelessness and which are due to expire in June should be retained. New home building should also be helped to come back rapidly following the lockdown, it said.
The March reduction included 62 less adults, 179 less dependants and 122 less families in emergency accommodation.
Commenting on the latest figures, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said his department was working on a daily basis with local authorities and NGOs to ensure the safety of those in emergency accommodation during the current pandemic.
“Despite the current challenges work is taking place across the country to move people into homes,” he said.
“We continue to add capacity to the system where needed to allow for isolation and social distancing and are working closely with the HSE.”