Rise in number of homeless single adults drives climb in overall figures

Number of families without homes has fallen by 40 per cent over the past year

Focus Ireland said many of the single adults entering homelessness were coming from the private rental market. Photofraph: iStock

Focus Ireland said many of the single adults entering homelessness were coming from the private rental market. Photofraph: iStock

 

The total number of homeless people has risen for the first time in several months, with the increase driven entirely by a continuing climb in single adults’ homelessness.

Data from the Department of Housing on Friday show there were 8,313 people, including 2,326 children, in emergency accommodation during the week of January 25th to 31st.

The figures represent an increase of 1 per cent from the 8,200 homeless in December , though a slight decline in family homelessness - from 970 families in December to 966 last month. The number of children in emergency accommodation fell by one.

Overall homeless had been falling since March 2020 - the start of the pandemic - when there were 9,907 people in emergency accommodation.

The number of children and families in particular declined, with a 40 per cent fall in homeless families since January 2020, due to successes exiting homelessness as more rental properties became available.

The relentless rise in the number of single adults, in Dublin in particular, is however becoming the focus of concern among NGOs. This figure now stands at 3,054, up from 3,027 in December and is a 6 per cent increase in a year when it was 2,865 in January 2020.

Mike Allen, director of advocacy with Focus Ireland, said many of the single adults entering homelessness were coming from the private rental market, indicating a “revolving door effect trapping at-risk people between unstable rentals and emergency accommodation.

“However, particularly during the Covid-19 period, family breakdowns and people having to give up informal housing arrangements, such as sofa-surfers, no doubt account for a proportion of its too.

“There is still a huge shortage of one-bed apartments in Ireland, which would be the preferred accommodation for many of the single adults who are becoming trapped in this system.”

In a report published on Friday the charity identifies increases in numbers of people self-describing as ’homeless’ being committed to prisons and the psychiatric institutions since 2014.

The number of prison committals of people self-declared as being “of no fixed abode” increased from 265 committals (231 males and 34 females) in 2014 to 505(444 males and 61 females) in 2019, while admissions to psychiatric hospitals increased from 253 (170 males and 83 females) in 2014 to 297 (211 males and 86 females) in 2019.

The Dublin Simon Community expressed its “alarm” at the rising numbers of single people in the figures.

“Until there is a significant improvement in the availability of one-bed units for these groups to move into, we will continue to see the cycle of spiralling growth in the numbers of singles and couples stuck in emergency accommodation”, said chief executive Sam McGuinness.

Wayne Stanley, spokesman for the Simon Communities said: “While we very much welcome the fall in family homelessness, it is deeply concerning that single person homelessness continues to rise. A chronic, structural lack of appropriate, affordable housing supply continues to drive homelessness for single people.”