Figures show further increase in number of children without a home

Eoghan Murphy has admitted that the number of people in emergency accommodation “continues to be a huge problem.”

Figures show further increase in number of children without a home

- with reporting from Digital Desk staff

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy has admitted that the number of people in emergency accommodation “continues to be a huge problem.”

The issue will continue to be a problem until supply can be increased, he told RTÉ radio’s News at One.

The Minister was responding to the latest homeless figures which revealed that the number of people in emergency accommodation increased for a third month in a row in September with a further increase in the number of children without a home.

The most recent figures from the Department of Housing show that 10,397 people accessed emergency accommodation during the week beginning 23 September, which is an increase of 59 on the August statistics.

The number of children accessing emergency accommodation rose by 25 to 3,873 while the number of families also increased from 1,726 in August to 1,756 in September.

The figures showed:

  • 10,397 men, women and children are now in emergency accommodation, an overall increase of 7.2% since September 2018, when the figure was 9,698.
  • 6,524 single people are now in emergency accommodation, an overall increase of 11.1% since September 2018, when the figure was 5,869.
  • 1,756 families are living in emergency accommodation, an increase of three from September 2018, when the figure was 1,753 families.

Mr Murphy said that the situation would be a lot worse if the Government did not have a plan to tackle the collapse of the housing sector.

There is a need to separate the different parts of Rebuilding Ireland, he said, but ultimately the issue of homelessness will remain until housing supply meets demand.

“Until that happens we will have a problem.”

He said the Government has been attempting to address the problem by bringing in rental reforms, increasing and expanding ‘wraparound’ supports at family hubs, and also through increasing the number of families exiting emergency accommodation.

However, the Minister admitted that rent inflation is going to increase.

“Rents are too high, but we are increasing supports which is showing results.”

Eoghan Murphy
Eoghan Murphy

Extra resources have been allocated to the Residential Tenancies Board to police reforms which he hopes will “drive down” rent increases.

He is also hoping to see more robust inspections and an increase to a level of one in four properties being inspected every year. “We have allocated resources to get to that level.”

Meanwhile, Wayne Stanley - National Spokesperson for the Simon Communities - said the numbers "do not truly capture its full scale".

He said in a statement: "They do not include; rough sleepers and those in squats, people in direct provision and women’s shelters, and the ‘hidden homeless’ who have no home of their own.

"What they do show is that homelessness continues to grow. The Simon Communities across Ireland are seeing the crisis intensify every year, and services are becoming more and more stretched.

"Since the launch of Rebuilding Ireland in June 2016, homelessness in Dublin has risen by 52%, in the West of Ireland it has risen by 88%, and by 56% through the heart of the country over the same time period.

This intensification has been most acute in those areas where there are severe shortages of affordable homes, such as Cork, Galway and Kildare.

Mr Stanley called on the Government to move in a "new direction" to tackle homelessness.

"To move forward, the Government has to accept the failings of Rebuilding Ireland to provide affordable and secure housing across the country, particularly one and two bed units, and act to improve levels of availability of suitable and secure accommodation for those currently experiencing homelessness."

The Society of St Vincent de Paul's National President, Kieran Stafford said: "It is totally unacceptable for a rich country like Ireland that so many children have no place to call home. And we must not forget that behind every statistic is a childhood lost to homelessness.

"These statistics don't show the stress and strain experienced by families living in emergency accommodation.

We meet families who have lost their accommodation at short notice, if for example the hotel has a major function and requires the rooms.

"Things are even more difficult for families who have to source their own emergency accommodation on a 'self-accommodating' basis which can involve regularly making hundreds of phone calls to hotels and B&Bs seeking a room for the night for themselves and their children.

"Then there are psychological and relationship issues caused by families having to live together in cramped and stressful conditions."

Mr. Stafford added: "70% of those that exited homelessness last year were re-housed in the private rented sector. Without enhanced security these families are exposed to becoming homeless again. It is critical that we invest in public housing and tenancy security measures so that people can plan for the future.”

Meanhwhile, Threshold have issued an appeal for donations following the release of figures.

CEO John-Mark McCafferty said Threshold's frontline services are under huge pressure trying to keep families in their homes this winter:

"They are challenging invalid notices of termination or rent reviews; taking discrimination cases to the Workplace Relations Commission; and challenging illegal evictions and represent tenants at the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).

“This works. It keeps thousands of families in their homes. But we urgently need more money to fund homelessness prevention nationwide and we are appealing to the public to support us to prevent this crisis from worsening in the coming months.”

Speaking about the 700 families in emergency accommodation this year, Mr McCafferty said they "should not have had to go through homelessness in the first instance".

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