The Simon Communities in Ireland have described latest census figures on homelessness which show an 81% increase in the number of people who are homeless since 2011 as "unsurprising but deeply concerning".
Niamh Randall, Spokesperson for the Simon Communities, said that the figures are only a snapshot of some people in homeless services and accommodation on census night and tell just part of the story.
“What these figures really show us is that people who are homeless, like the rest of the population, do not have a singular experience of homelessness. They represent a wide range of experiences and a broad spectrum of people; single people, families, women, young people and drug/alcohol users who are homeless.
"For this reason, the Simon Communities are calling for a new cross departmental National Homelessness Sub-Strategy, under Rebuilding Ireland, with ring fenced funding for implementation. This sub-strategy would build upon existing commitments contained in Rebuilding Ireland including prevention, nationwide implementation of Housing First and addressing multiple and complex needs.”
Ms Randall went on to say it was hugely concerning to see the increase in young people who are becoming homeless.
"27% of those counted as homeless on census night. We know that people who have experience of homelessness in their youth are more likely to become homeless again as adults. Nobody should have to experience homelessness but it is particularly poignant to experience it as a child or young person.
"These figures show that people who are homeless are less likely to have higher education qualifications; we must ensure people have the supports necessary to access the education and training that they need to live independently.”
The spokesperson for the Simon Communities went on to say the report tells us about the real impact of austerity and the recession, the people behind the numbers and the fact that structural inequality and poverty is at the root of homelessness.
“It is worth noting that over 55% of people who are homeless are in the labour force. This suggests that there are thousands of workers who cannot afford to buy or rent a home of their own. The long term solution to ending the crisis is to build more social housing, more affordable housing.
"In the meantime, we must ensure that the private rental market is accessible to people. Addressing the spiralling rents and dwindling supply in private rented sector must be a priority.
"These persistent issues are preventing people from finding and sustaining affordable homes within the rental market. Keeping people in the homes that they already have is key to stopping the flow of people into homelessness.”
Ms Randall also said 42% of people who are homeless are women, an increase of 9% since 2011.
She went on: "Family homelessness has also increased by over 200%. 95% of one parent families are headed by women; the number of one parent families experiencing homelessness has increased by 206% since 2011.
"12% of people are recorded as divorced, significantly higher than the general population at 5%, we know that family breakdown is one of the leading causes of homelessness so we must look at how we can prevent homelessness in the case of a marital breakdown.”
The Simon Communities deliver supports and services to over 8,300 people and families throughout Ireland who experience or are at risk of homelessness every year.
Almost 7,000 people were classed as homeless on census night last year.
The latest report from the 2016 population count revealed homeless people were on average younger and sicker.
The Central Statistics Office (CSO) said about one-fifth of people who were recorded in emergency or temporary accommodation indicated their health was fair, bad or very bad, almost double the rate of the general population.
The disability rate among the homeless was double that of the general population, the CSO said, with 1,871 people indicating they had a disability.
It also revealed that about one-third of the 2,915 homeless people in the labour force were working.
The CSO said its homeless numbers were based on where people were living on census night April 24, 2016, and not through self-identification.
Some 2,887 people were recorded in private emergency accommodation; another 2,681 were in supported temporary accommodation; and another 1,144 people were in temporary emergency accommodation.
The headcount also found 123 rough sleepers, 102 of whom were in Dublin.
The CSO said it did not include the 1,772 people in long-term accommodation in its report on homelessness as they were classed as tenants even though they were receiving specific supports.
Senior statistician Deirdre Cullen said: "This report will help to further improve our understanding of this complex issue, by providing important new information on the social and economic circumstances of homeless persons.
"The collection of data in this important area could not have been achieved without the input and assistance of a broad range of both government and non-government stakeholders, and the CSO would like to thank all concerned for their cooperation in this."
A breakdown of the census records on homelessness found 6,906 people were either sleeping rough or in special accommodation for people without a home, including 4,018 males and 2,888 females.
The average age of a homeless person was 31.
Some 1,846 homeless people were aged 17 or under, including 1,594 children in family units. Another 413 people were aged 60 and over.
There were 896 families classed as homeless on census night, including 111 families with four or more children.
There were also 567 one-parent families, with the vast majority mothers.
The CSO also noted that 429 students were homeless.
Focus Ireland said the most shocking revelation was the huge number of children under four who are homeless - 765.
But the charity's director of advocacy Mike Allen said: "This census data also demolishes many of the myths that people have about 'the homeless'.
"It shows that people who are homeless look very much like everyone else in the population. This demonstrates the extent to which homelessness is linked to the wider housing crisis that impacts on all sections of society."
Focus Ireland also noted the growth in the number of Travellers who are homeless - 163 in 2011 to 517 last year.