At least three years until numbers becoming homeless decrease, committee hears

It will take at least another three years before the number of people becoming homeless starts to decrease.

That was the view of the director of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, Eileen Gleeson, who said she did not expect to see a decrease in the number of people becoming homeless until at least 2021.

An Oireachtas committee also heard that an increase in the overall supply of social housing will be critical in addressing homelessness in the longer term.

“We need to get to a place where supply is outstripping demand. Until we get there we will continue to have a homeless crisis,” said Ms Gleeson.

She was one of a number of officials who attended a meeting of the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government to discuss homeless figures.

Ms Gleeson said they were working with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government on getting homeless people out into the surrounding counties where there was a surplus of private rented accommodation.

“There are people who would quite happily live outside the Dublin region if we could give them the supports under the Housing Assistance Payment scheme do that and not impact on their eligibility for social housing.”

The scheme had prevented 1,232 families from having to use emergency accommodation over the last nine months.

Prof Eoin O’Sullivan from the School of Social Work and Social Policy at Trinity College Dublin said 10,000 units of private rented housing had been lost in just over 12 months.

“So between the escalation of rents and the loss of nearly 10,000 tenancies I suspect that in a year's time we will be back with even higher figures on homelessness,” he said.

Prof O'Sullivan warned that there would be a continuous flow of families into homelessness until something was done to change the legal right to terminate tenancies.

He also referred to the “hidden homeless “ - households in insecure or inadequate accommodation, pointing out that were about 35,000 households in that category this year.

Ms Gleeson said six people had died on the streets in the Dublin region over the last 16 months, not 27 as had been claimed by one homeless charity.

She described research just completed by the DRHE around mortality in the homeless population between 2005 and 2015 as “stark”.

It showed that 42 was the average age of those who died. For males, the age was 44 and for females, it was 37.

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