Number of homeless people increased by 8.7% last year

Charities say decrease to total of 8,914 in December likely to be short lived

Tents of homeless people on the Grand Canal on Charlemont Place in Dublin. Photograph: Tom Honan

Tents of homeless people on the Grand Canal on Charlemont Place in Dublin. Photograph: Tom Honan

 

Charities have welcomed a recent fall in the number of homeless people but cautioned that longer-term trends continue to paint a bleak picture of the impact the State’s housing crisis is having.

The latest data from the Department of Housing, published on Friday, highlighted a 2 per cent decrease in homelessness during December.

However, the number of people living in emergency accommodation increased by almost 9 per cent last year.

Despite the improvement last month, charities working with homeless people said the issue was likely to worsen and that December traditionally delivers a temporary lull in the numbers.

There were 8,914 adults and children staying in emergency homeless accommodation in the State during the last week of December. Included in the total were 1,077 families (2.8 per cent fewer than the previous month); 4,722 single adults (1 per cent fewer); and 2,451 children or dependents (3.8 per cent fewer).

The total represents a decrease of 2 per cent on the November figure but is up 8.7 per cent in comparison to the same time a year earlier.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said that while the monthly reduction was welcome, recent trends regarding people becoming homeless had not been arrested.

“This will require significant work which I and the Government are committed to doing,” he said. “Homelessness overall has been reduced from over 10,500 in late 2019 to where it is currently at less than 9,000.”

The department’s focus was on delivering more than 90,000 social homes, 36,000 affordable homes and 18,000 cost-rental homes by 2030 as the country continues to battle a prolonged supply crisis, he added.

The Simon Communities of Ireland welcomed the fall recorded in December but said the situation would likely deteriorate in the months ahead.

“We know that people go the extra mile over the Christmas period to offer relief to those in need,” the charity’s head of policy Wayne Stanley said.

“We anticipate that the numbers will increase again in January and over the first quarter of 2022. In fact, well beyond that if significant action is not taken.”

Focus Ireland said the December figures offered something of a false hope given they traditionally rise again during January. It pointed to the “very worrying” increase of almost 9 per cent for the year.

“We need to see the numbers continue to decrease each month if we are to achieve the Government commitment of ending homelessness by 2030,” said Focus Ireland director of advocacy Mike Allen. “The numbers had risen sharply in the six months from May to November before this drop in December.”

The Peter McVerry Trust said the reduction was the first recorded since May.

A separate quarterly progress report showed that 1,191 adults and dependants exited homelessness into tenancies in the final quarter of last year. However, over the course of the year there was an 11 per cent decrease, when compared with 2020, in the number doing so.

A decline in availability of private rented properties available to people using the Housing Assistance Payment scheme was cited as a significant factor for the slow down.