Government can’t treat homeless data as ‘business as usual’

Homeless charities have warned that the latest figures showing yet another new record number of homeless people in the country cannot be treated as “business as usual”.

Statistics published by the Department of Housing showed that, in June, there were 9,872 people homeless, including 3,824 children. It represents a slight increase on the corresponding figure for May which showed 9,846 people homeless, including 3,826 children.

The crisis shows little sign of easing, even though the Department also published provisional results of the 2018 Summary of Social Housing Assessments (SSHA), which showed an annual fall in the number of people on the housing waiting list.

The data shows that 71,858 households were assessed as being qualified for and in need of social housing support as of June 2018, down just over 16% on the last assessment carried out in June 2017.

However, organisations assisting those caught up in homelessness said that while there had been progress in some areas, the Government was still failing to do enough to ease the crisis.

“We must never allow the constantly rising number of people becoming homeless each month to become the norm, and there is a real risk that this is starting to happen,” said Focus Ireland CEO Pat Dennigan.

“Only three years ago, in June 2015, there were 1,318 children homeless. This was seen as shocking at the time, but the total has now trebled in only three years to a shameful 3,824.”

“The number of families homeless has shot up by 170% in the same period from 650 in June 2015 to 1,754 in June 2018. In the last month, 92 families in Dublin became newly homeless, the highest June figure ever recorded.”

The Simon Communities in Ireland noted a 28% increase since June last year in the number of families living in emergency accommodation.

“At the heart of this is the lack of secure, affordable housing,” said Simon Communities spokeswoman Niamh Randall.

“Without an accessible private rental sector or social housing, people have nowhere to go if they cannot afford to rent.”

 

She also said the Simon Communities were “deeply concerned” over suggestions from Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy of moving from monthly to quarterly reporting on the figures.

On the 2018 Summary of Social Housing Assessments, Ms Randall said: “It is welcome that the number of households on the social housing waiting list has dropped 16% from 85,799 to 71,858. However, this number remains far too high.”

Barnardos said that the numbers of children living in emergency accommodation have risen sharply in the Mid-West and the South-East.

June Tinsley, the head of advocacy at Barnardos, said: “We have seen large increases in two particular regions. The Mid-West has seen a 23% increase in child homelessness, while numbers increased in the South-East by 24%. More is clearly needed to support families in these regions — and tailored supports are necessary.”

Mr Murphy said almost every one of the country’s local authorities reported a decrease in their annual waiting lists and claimed the new SSHA figures represented a total decrease of more than 21% since September 2016 and the publication of Rebuilding Ireland.


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