Homeless situation is at crisis point, say groups

The Dublin Homeless Executive says it is dealing with an “unprecedented demand” for services, with Focus Ireland saying homelessness is at crisis point.

Focus Ireland said a record 71 homeless families were referred to its team in Dublin in April. It said this figure does not reflect the full scale of the problem, as many families who have been assessed as homeless had been refused emergency accommodation as there were no places available.

It said the Focus Ireland Intake Team, run with the Peter McVerry Trust, was increasingly finding families sleeping in cars or other inappropriate places.

Focus Ireland said it has written to Environment Minister Alan Kelly urging him to issue an urgent ministerial directive instructing local authorities that any family that is homeless must be provided with suitable emergency accommodation — and that no homeless family should be turned away.

It said there needs to be a rise in rent supplement payments to allow families to stay in the private rented sector, alongside providing rent certainty for tenants.

Focus Ireland advocacy director Mike Allen said: “Without this ministerial order and the resources to make it effective, it is simply a matter of time before we start to see young children and their parents sleeping on our streets. The risk that these children will be under is unthinkable in a country which, we are told, is in the middle of an economic recovery.”

Of the 71 homeless families referred to Focus Ireland in April, 63 have no previous experience of homelessness.

Figures from the Dublin local authority homeless services show that in the week ending Sunday, April 26, there were 442 families with dependent children using different forms of emergency accommodation, including hotels, across the Dublin area. The figure in the corresponding week in March was 411.

Similarly the total number of dependent children in emergency accommodation of different forms increased from 911 in the given week in March to 970 in the corresponding week in April.

A spokesperson for the Dublin Region Homeless Executive said there is an unprecedented demand for local authority homeless services in Dublin. “This is primarily as a result of people losing their accommodation in the private rented sector.

“In the first instance, local authority staff are working on a daily basis to ensure that families who are at risk of imminent homelessness can be accommodated and can avoid the experience of sleeping rough,” it said.

“In the second instance, the local authorities are working intensely to support families in a very stressful situation and who may be at risk of losing their tenancy in the forthcoming days or who have been staying with their family and friends after already leaving their home.”

It is understood that while the flow of people — including families — leaving the private rented sector has continued, the rate at which homeless people and fam-ilies are re-entering the sector having utilised homeless services has not kept pace.

The latest performance report on funding for homeless services to Dublin City Council, covering the first three months of this year, shows that 236 adult individuals moved out of homelessness to independent living in tenancies — 193 to social housing and only 43 to private tenancies.

More than 1,800 adult individuals were accommodated on a nightly basis in the first quarter, accompanied by about 900 children per night, 67% of whom were accommodated with their families in hotels.

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