More than 1,400 people across rural Ireland are homeless, a 12% increase on last year — and the number of adults has exceeded 1,000 for the first time.
The extent of rural homelessness is examined in a new report from the Peter McVerry Trust to be launched today at the National Ploughing Championships in Ballintrane, Co Carlow.
The charity’s chief executive, Pat Doyle, said while the number of homeless adults in rural counties was significant, it could be reduced very quickly.
“In every rural county across Ireland the greatest need is for single person homes, yet these are the least common type of home-delivered,” he said.
The report only considered counties without a city within their areas. Excluded are Cork, Dublin, Galway, Limerick, Kilkenny, and Waterford.
The report recommends having highly mobile support teams, including mental health and addiction specialists, visit people affected by homelessness, and increasing the income threshold for access to the mortgage to rent scheme to €50,000 so more households could use it to save their homes.
“We need this particularly in rural areas as the level of long-term mortgage arrears is highest in rural counties and thus we are most likely to see repossessions in rural counties,” said Mr Doyle.
The charity is currently supporting 1,700 people every night across Ireland in its housing, homeless, and residential services.
The charity believes that one of the quickest and most effective ways of providing more housing is to reuse the tens of thousands of empty homes across Ireland. It also points out that thousands of buildings in towns and villages are only partly used.
Meanwhile, the Mercy Law Resource Centre assisted more than 80 families who had been refused access to emergency accommodation last year.
Since it was established in 2009, the charity has provided free legal advice and assistance to 8,335 individuals and families who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
In its first year, it provided legal advice and representation to 270 families but by 2018 the number had risen sharply to 1,381.
The centre’s managing solicitor, Rebecca Keatinge, said it was “astounding and completely unacceptable” that two-thirds of homeless families in the Dublin region remained in hotels three years after the Government published Rebuilding Ireland and committed to ending reliance on hotels and B&Bs by mid-2017.