Immediate action needed from Government to address record-high homeless figures

Focus Ireland's director said the homelessness crisis is likely "much worse than the numbers we are seeing"
Immediate action needed from Government to address record-high homeless figures

Vivienne Clarke

Updated: 2.25pm

Immediate action needs to be taken to address the dramatic increase in homeless figures, Focus Ireland's director Mike Allen has warned.

Mr Allen told RTÉ Radio’s News at One it was "with heavy heart" he was reporting that numbers were going up, reaching a new record of 10,568.

There had been a 30 per cent increase in homeless figures since May 2021 when the figures were at their lowest in five years, he explained.

Local authorities had encouraged people to stay with families and friends, so the real figures were probably much higher, he added.

"The circumstances are much worse than the numbers we are seeing."

The solution did not lie with the private sector in the long run as there is a need for more public housing, Mr Allen said, adding that landlords were not the "baddies".

The alarming number of notices of termination of tenancy so far this year were an early warning system, he stressed, adding that the alarm system was flashing red.

He said it was time for the Government to put together measures to address this crisis, including incentives to keep landlords in the market.

Mr Allen said there has not been enough imagination in tackling the issue seriously: "Now is absolutely the time to do something."

Measures should be included in the forthcoming budget to address the scale of the problem coming down the track, he added, warning that any action needs to be stronger and more targeted to get landlords to stay in the market until such time as there was reform of the sector.

The focus needs to be immediate, he said. "We’re not in a position to wait for houses to be built."

'Disturbing'

Reacting to the latest figures, which are the highest recorded since October 2019, the Simon Communities of Ireland said the situation is "even more disturbing when we consider the depth of the current housing crisis".

Included in the July figures were 1,423 families, 3,137 children or dependents, and 1,239 young people aged 18-24.

The Simon Communities of Ireland's head of policy and communication Wayne Stanley highlighted that at the last peak in October 2019 there were 3,500 properties available to rent according to Daft.ie, compared to just 716 properties now.

"We are seeing landlords leaving the private rental market and the cost of living crisis continues to bite," Mr Stanley said.

"In this context, the State needs to take emergency action now to increase housing supply.

"It is deeply disheartening and concerning to see a record high number of 10,568 people stuck in emergency homeless accommodation while over 166,000 homes are vacant throughout the country.

"Our pre-budget submission calls on the Government to bring 5,000 vacant homes into use in 2023 through a renewed Repair and Lease Scheme to house people in homelessness and those waiting on social housing," he added.

Depaul Ireland also responded to the figures, stating it is "extremely concerned" over the current situation.

"We are supportive of Housing for All but targets in housing supply must be increased and additional funding must be found to support these increased targets.

"As part of this, a renewed focus on social and affordable housing for single people with complex needs is critical as we are seeing high numbers of single people entering the homeless system," a statement from Depaul said.

"There is an opportunity to reduce the numbers entering homelessness but significant state supports and investment are needed to get us to this place," it added.

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