Significant increase in the number of homeless children

New figures show progress made in tackling the homelessness crisis has been reversed

The number of homeless children in the State increased last month to 2,546. File photograph: Aidan Crawley

The number of homeless children in the State increased last month to 2,546. File photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

The number of homeless children in the State increased last month to 2,546, wiping out the apparent progress made in January in tackling the crisis.

Last month, figures showed that the number of homeless people in the State had fallen from 7,184 in December 2016 to 7,167 in January.

However, official figures released on Friday showed a significant increase in homelessness in February, to 7,421 people.

Responding to the new figures, Minister for Housing Simon Coveney said they were “disappointing but not unexpected”.

Child homelessness figures are significant in driving the changes in the overall figures each month.

The number of homeless children fell from 2,505 in December to 2,407 in January.

However, February’s figure for child homelessness shows the number now stands at 2,546.

In Dublin, some 2,129 children in 1,055 families were homeless during the week of February 20th-26th.

This represents an increase of 83 in the number of homeless children in the capital since January (2,046 children in 1,007 families).

This is despite the fact the number of homeless children in the city fell by 50 between December and January.

Mr Coveney had previously pledged that by July no homeless child in Dublin would have to live in a hotel or a B&B.

Regional increases

There were also significant increases in the child homelessness figures for other regions.

The number of homeless children in the midwest decreased by 34 between December and January to 52. However, the figure increased to 85 last month.

In the southwest, the number of homeless children increased from 91 in December to 106 in January, before rising to 125 last month.

The figures were a “stark reminder of the difficulties we face in dealing with the homelessness problem”, said Mr Coveney.

“We must continue to work hard and redouble our efforts.

“Last year, 3,052 households exited homelessness, which is the highest level ever, and the level of ambition [in this regard] is greater again this year.

“This is a substantial increase on the 2,300 exits achieved in 2015 and reflects the significant ongoing work being done by housing authorities and their partner NGOs in helping households and individuals transition from homelessness to more permanent homes.”

‘Deeply disappointed’

Fergus Finlay, chief executive of the children’s charity Barnardos, said he was “deeply disappointed” by Friday’s figures.

He said they proved that the Government’s efforts to tackle the homelessness crisis were “inadequate”.

“Despite the Government commitments . . . and despite increased funding for housing and homelessness for 2017, the impact is not being felt by those most in need.

“The slowness of our systems to respond, escalating rents and the continued lack of supply across all housing sectors have all combined to hamper the Government’s efforts. Simply put, these efforts are now inadequate.”

Mike Allen, director of advocacy with Focus Ireland, said increasing housing supply was not enough to tackle the homelessness crisis and more needed to be done to keep families in their homes.

He called for measures to help keep tenants in buy-to-let homes when the landlord is selling the property.

The Simon Communities also called for a review of housing support caps.