Ireland

Government criticised amid ‘record high number of homeless children’

There was an increase in families accessing emergency accommodation (Alamy/PA)
There was an increase in families accessing emergency accommodation (Alamy/PA) There was an increase in families accessing emergency accommodation (Alamy/PA)

There were 12,827 people in emergency accommodation in September, representing a 1.1% increase on the previous month’s figures, according to the Department of Housing.

There were also 3,904 children recorded as homeless last month which represented a record high, according to housing charities.

They also said the total figures represented a 17% increase in the number of people in emergency accommodation over a year, and a 20% increase in the number of families presenting as homeless in the same period.

There was an increase of 132 single adults and six families accessing emergency accommodation during the count week compared with the previous month, the Department of Housing said.

The department’s figures do not include rough sleepers, people in direct provision or refuge shelters, or couch surfers.

Focus Ireland called for more immediate action to support children and on the prolonged periods that families are spending in emergency accommodation.

Focus Ireland chief executive Pat Dennigan said: “The Government is not using anywhere near enough of the newly available social housing.

“It is imperative to allocate a more equitable portion of these new housing resources to families and individuals who have been experiencing long-term homelessness.

“This step is crucial in the ongoing effort to reduce homelessness and provide stable housing solutions for those in need.”

Executive director of the Simon Communities Wayne Stanley said: “The figures released today are the highest number of men, women and children experiencing homelessness ever recorded in the month of September.

“This concerning trend is driven by the lack of secure affordable homes. Our latest quarterly report, Locked Out of the Market, showed the lowest number of HAP (housing assistance payment) properties on record.

“This unfortunate milestone was also observed in September.”

He called on HAP rates to be raised, and for an increase in the allocation of social housing to those in homelessness.

He said: “Choices were made in the budget and the clear consensus is that there was no substantial action there to make a significant dent in the ongoing homelessness crisis. We have said it before, a crisis demands a crisis response.

“We saw the impact of the efforts made during the pandemic to reduce homelessness so we know a crisis response will deliver results. We are calling on the Government to act.”

Respond housing body 2022 report launch
Respond housing body 2022 report launch Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien (PA)

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said homelessness remains “the top priority for this Government” as figures released by his department showed an increase in the number of people in emergency accommodation.

“As we can see from the monthly report for September unfortunately, there has been a further increase in the numbers of people in emergency accommodation and the reasons for this remain varied and complex,” he said. “The Government, local authorities and those in our NGO sectors are working together and making every effort to reduce homelessness.

“We can see some of this hard work paying off in terms of the significant increases in preventing people from entering emergency accommodation and helping people to exit.”

He added: “However, the situation is very challenging and tackling this issue is a Government priority. We know that increasing the supply of new homes, particularly social and affordable homes, is key to tackling homelessness.

“CSO figures published on Wednesday show 22,443 homes were completed in the first nine months of 2023, a 9% increase on the same period in 2022 and the highest number of completions recorded for the first nine months of any year since the CSO data series began in 2011.

“So we know that supply is increasing and we are going in the right direction.”

Sinn Fein spokesperson on housing Eoin O Broin said homelessness had increased across “every single category” from August to September.

“It is not enough for Government to say this is their number one priority. They must act like it is their number one priority.

“The fact that there was no new initiative to address the rising levels of homelessness in the recent budget shows beyond any doubt that this Government has thrown in the towel on the housing crisis.

“The only way we are going to address this deepening crisis is with a general election, a change of government and a radical change of housing plan.”

Social Democrats housing spokesperson Cian O’Callaghan said the rise in homeless children represented “a monumental failure for this Government, who have watched child homelessness increase by 47% since taking office”.

“The Minister for Housing needs to immediately publish a plan to eradicate child homelessness in 2024, he said.

“This plan must include a permanent ban on no-fault evictions to protect children from the trauma of growing up without a home.

“There is no acceptable level of child homelessness. We are not a country starved of resources. Ensuring that every child grows up with a home should be the bare minimum for any government.”