The number of people sleeping rough in the capital has fallen slightly since the winter to 91, according to figures published on Tuesday.
The data, from the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE), come as the number of single people becoming homeless continues to rise. And this has fuelled more deaths among the population.
The annual spring count of people sleeping outdoors, conducted between March 28th and April 3rd by the Dublin Simon outreach and Peter McVerry Trust housing first intake teams, found 91 “unique individuals” sleeping rough. This compares with 94 found during the late 2021 winter count and 125 found during last year’s spring count.
The majority of those noted in this latest count were Irish men, aged between 26-45 years. One-third were in tents and some 13 individuals had also been sleeping rough during the winter count. Almost 80 per cent of the total were linked in with a Dublin local authority’s housing section and nine of them had an active tenancy.
This latest report comes as figures reported on Tuesday by the Irish Examiner show deaths notified to Dublin’s homeless services more than doubled since 2018, from 47 to 115 last year.
Austin O’Carroll, founder of the medical service Safetynet, noted however that not all of these were among homeless people. And when taken in the context of the significant increase in homeless single adults, mortality rates had not increased markedly.
When those people who had been in long-term accommodation, were in housing-first tenancies, were in receipt of visiting support or were not known to homeless services and so may not actually have been homeless when they died, were removed, homeless deaths in Dublin last year were 64.
‘Crude mortality rate’
This compares with 47 homeless deaths in in 2020, 25 in 2019 and 24 in 2018.
At the same time homeless single adults in Dublin have been rising steadily since 2019, from a low of 2.479 in March that year to 3,256 in February this year – a 31 per cent increase.
There were 3,133 homeless single adults in Dublin at the end of last year.
“The crude mortality rate among the single homelessness population has remained within what I would call ‘normal range’,” said Dr O’Carroll. “Last year it was 20.4 per 1,000, of the Dublin homeless population. It was 22 in 2016, 16.9 in 2017, 8.4 in 2018, 10.2 in 2019 and 16.4 in 2020. So, it’s higher than the last four years but lower than five years ago. I would interpret that as still within normal variation.”
Reiterating a recommendation he has made several times, for critical incident reviews into every death of a homeless person, he said the risk of premature death increases with homelessness.
“The fact there are more people becoming homeless means you are going to have [a] higher number of deaths. We should stop people becoming homeless because it is a dangerous place to be. I would suspect that there is more drug addiction.”
Despite repeated calls from Dr O'Carroll, and from the Oireachtas housing committee, that every death of a homeless person be investigated in a similar way to that in which the deaths of children and young people known to Tusla are, this is not happening.
The DRHE has ceased reporting on such deaths. While the Health Research Board is conducting a pilot feasibility study looking at 2019 coronial files, on how it might in the future review preventable homelessness deaths, it has no remit as yet to review deaths since 2019 among homeless people.