Focus Ireland issued its Pre-Budget Submission last week which calls for urgent action to restore priority for homeless households in allocating social housing as homeless numbers reach a record high. The charity has also called for a twin-track approach in Budget 2023 to increase social & affordable housing while stepping up prevention measures to halt the rising tide of homelessness.
Figures published by the Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage last month show the number of people who are officially homeless has reached a record high of 10,568 people. This is an increase of 76 since the June 2022 figure of 10,492 and a shocking 30% increase from only a year ago (8,132 in July 2021). Focus Ireland says the number of people who are homeless is edging closer to the "historic high" of 10,514 in October 2019.
Focus Ireland CEO, Pat Dennigan said:
“Just over a year ago in May 2021 we were welcoming a 5-year low in homelessness and today we are back up to the highest level ever. Actions during the pandemic reduce homelessness by over 2,000 people, so we know what can be achieved by us all in partnership when the Government deals with the issue with leadership and real urgency. The real number of people who have no home is no doubt considerably higher as local authorities across the country are reporting that every emergency bed is full, and people are being asked to stay temporarily in unsuitable circumstances while new shelters are being commissioned. This hidden homelessness is also at record levels.”
Sinn Féin's housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin has accused Minister O'Brien of being "asleep at the wheel" as the number of people who are homeless increases.
"Not a single emergency measure commensurate with the scale of the homeless crisis has been introduced to date."
Commenting on the latest figures from the Department of Housing, Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien said "the continuing increase in the numbers accessing emergency accommodation is a serious concern.” On 5th July, President Higgins signed the Regulations of Providers of Building Works and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2022 (the ‘Act’) into law. The Act has increased the minimum amount of notice that a landlord is required to give a tenant, where the tenant has been in occupation of a property. The notice to be given to the tenant depends on the length of occupancy. Minister O’Brien, said the reason for the extended notice is to give tenants time to find alternative accommodation and to ensure a more secure rental market for renters.
Caoimhe O'Connell, a spokesperson for the Dublin Simon Community said it is,
"beyond frustrating to see the number of people residing in emergency accommodation in Dublin climb upwards for yet another month. We have now broken a record we never wanted to reach, with the increase recorded in the June 2022 Homeless Report coming at a time when homeless services are beyond capacity, while housing applications are suffering extreme delays. At present, it is taking on average five months for housing applications to be processed. That's five months of waiting just to get on the waiting list, which can then take several years to yield a house, depending on your situation."
The Simon Communities of Ireland have called on the Government to bring 5,000 vacant properties back into use through the Repair and Lease Scheme, as well as increasing funding towards homeless prevention. It said the latest figures from the Department of Housing show the number of people in emergency homeless accommodation has risen for the sixth consecutive month.
Earlier this year, President Higgins made an impassioned speech in which he said,
“I have taken to speaking ever more frankly in relation to housing because I think it is our great, great, great failure. It isn’t a crisis anymore, it’s a disaster”.