77% rise in referrals to homeless service last year

Referrals to a homeless support service almost doubled last year.

Threshold’s Dublin access housing unit received 800 referrals last year, a 77% increase on the previous year.

The unit helps people who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless, to find accommodation in the private rented sector.

Referrals have been rising since 2010 when the service dealt with 260 referrals; in 2011, the figure increased 394 and in 2012 it was 453.

Threshold says it is busier than ever in Dublin because of increasing demand in the private rental sector and a serious shortage of rental accommodation in the city.

Rent prices in Dublin are increasing at a time when welfare is being cut and caps are being put on rent supplement.

Threshold says many low-income, vulnerable families are no longer able to pay the rent or find suitable accommodation within their price range.

It found there had been a 75% drop in the number of rental properties on a leading property website over the past four years.

During the same period the percentage of landlords and agents advertising on the website who said they were willing to accept rent supplement dropped from 21% in 2010 to 1.2% last year.

Threshold chairwoman, Senator Aideen Hayden, said the national service dealt with more than 21,000 people last year.

“The number of people coming to us who are at risk of homelessness has increased by 50% in one year,” she said.

Speaking on RTÉ radio, Ms Hayden said they were seeing people who had lost their homes because they could not meet a monthly rent increase of between €50 and €100.

Threshold’s Dublin housing service was seeing people who were about to be evicted from their homes over the next day or two.

Ms Hayden said the problem of rent increases was a particular Dublin problem — the charity was seeing people every day who were facing increases of over 20% and unable to find property at the rent supplement cap.

Ms Hayden said the State should be spending money on preventing people from becoming homeless.

“It costs about €30,000 a year to keep somebody in a homeless service. So, therefore, it is logical to prevent people losing their homes in the first instance.”

And, with people profiteering from the current shortage of rental accommodation, the imposition of rent caps should be considered.

Ms Hayden also called for an increase in the number of social housing units being built annually — from about 600 to 6,000.

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