More families are on the brink of homelessness with the number seeking advice on how to hold on to their home soaring by almost half.

New figures from Focus Ireland also revealed an 18% hike in the number of people using its support services, rising to 9,237 so far this year from 7,819 in 2012.

Minister of State for Housing and Planning Jan O’Sullivan said prevention is a crucial part of addressing homelessness as she pledged to help deliver more housing for those in need.

“There has been substantial progress in this regard in recent years, with, for instance, last year 879 people in the Dublin area moving from homelessness to independent living,” Ms O’Sullivan said.

“I am fully supportive of new models to support and enhance this housing-led approach to homelessness, such as the social rental agency model, and I am pleased to see the voluntary sector leading the way in examining these options.”

Ms O’Sullivan, who set a deadline earlier this year to end long-term homelessness by the end of 2016, praised Focus Ireland for the support and advice it offers to homeless people and those in danger of losing their home.

Figures from the charity, unveiled ahead of a conference in Dublin today, showed a 43% increase in the number of people seeking housing advice to help prevent them losing their home.

This rose from 2,973 throughout the first 10 months of 2012, to 4,248 between January and October this year.

Focus Ireland chief executive Joyce Loughnan insisted an increase in access to housing for vulnerable households that they can afford is essential.

“We are now seeing more people at serious risk of losing their homes due to the impact of the recession and it’s highly worrying to see the numbers of families becoming homeless,” Ms Loughnan said.

“In Dublin alone the number of families becoming homeless has recently doubled from eight to 16 every month.

“Most of these families were previously living in private rented accommodation. Prevention is cheaper than cure and we call for increased investment in housing advice services, such as those provided by Focus Ireland across the country, to help people at risk of homelessness deal with their problems before they lose their homes.”

The charity has published a study which proposes a new approach to securing private rented accommodation for people moving out of homelessness.

Its social rental model would allow landlords to obtain a fair market rent and be confident that the property would be returned to them in good condition.

The organisation is already piloting a scheme in Cork – with charity partners - and plans to start a new pilot in Dublin.

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