Nearly 6,000 people living in emergency accommodation

Homeless support agencies have expressed alarm at figures which show the number of people now living in emergency accommodation at an all-time high at 5,715 people.

Picture above shows 'Crash Mats' for homeless people availing of Ireland's first homeless night cafe which is operated by Merchants Quay Ireland. The servce  had 18,375 referrals in its first year of operation.  

The latest figures have prompted a warning that the crisis in Dublin is now being replicated in other parts of the country.

The figures for January, published by the Department of the Environment, show that 884 families were in emergency accommodation, including 1,830 children.

There were also 3,885 homeless adults around the country, 2,678 of whom are in Dublin. Most are aged in the 25 to 44 age group.

Dublin accounts for 69% of all homeless people in the State, with 769 homeless families including 496 single-parent families and 1,570 children. It also has 2,678 homeless adults, with 1,405 in private emergency accommodation, such as hotels and B&Bs, and 1,240 in supported temporary accommodation, including hostels.

This week the Irish Examiner reported how the country’s first homeless night cafe, operated by Merchants Quay Ireland, had 18,375 referrals in its first year of operation and almost 2,000 unique users.

However, other areas also have a growing issue with people forced into emergency accommodation. Cork had 231 people described as homeless in January, Limerick had 208 cases and Galway had 125.

The homelessness crisis in the capital is augmented by issues in commuter counties, with another 179 people homeless in Kildare, Meath and Wicklow and another 54 in Louth.

Niamh Randall, national spokesperson for the Simon Communities, said the 5,715 people now in emergency accommodation represented a year-on-year increase of 49%, while the percentage increases elsewhere are even more startling: a 111% increase over a year in the number of children in emergency accommodation, and a year-on-year increase of 120% in the number of homeless families.

She warned that while the problem is most acute in the capital, “the same pattern that happened in Dublin is now happening around the country. We are going to see numbers escalating”, she said.

Ms Randall said that it is obvious that “current initiatives are not working” and that there needs to be cross-party support for dealing with the homeless crisis as a “priority issue”, with the caretaker government also urged to address issues such as rent certainty.

“We need to get all ideas and suggestions on the table”, she said, saying that the crisis is far too serious for any “politicking” around the formation of a new government to impair progress.

She said that there also needs to be a minister of housing in the next cabinet, backed with staff and adequate resources.

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