THE Government must tackle homelessness with the same urgency as it did the Covid pandemic – as Sinn Fein says Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien’s position has become ‘untenable’.
Homeless charities are calling for urgent action as new figures show there are 10,325 homeless people.
According to the latest figures from the Department of Housing, Heritage and Local Government, the number of people in emergency homeless accommodation has risen again for the fifth consecutive month.
There were 10,325 men, women and children in emergency homeless accommodation in Ireland in the last week of May 2022.
This is a 29% (2,334) increase in the number of homeless people year over year, and just 189 from the highest number of homeless people recorded by the Department in October 2019 (10,514).
Of these, 1,366 were families. This is 58 (4.4%) more than the previous month (1,308 families).
Charities have called on Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien to step in to address the crisis in the housing sector.
However, Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin TD said Minister O’Brien “has completely lost control of the homeless situation”, following the release of the report.
The new statistics show singles homelessness has reached 5,000 for the first time.
The report also says the number of children in emergency accommodation has exceeded 3,000.
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Mr O Broin said: “The latest homelessness report from the Department of Housing shows an increase in homelessness among adults, children, families and singles.
“For the first time, the number of homeless single people has reached 5,000. There are also more than 3,000 children in emergency accommodation funded by the Department of Housing.
“It is now glaringly clear that Minister O’Brien has completely lost control of the homeless situation. Despite a full year of rising homelessness levels, the Minister has no plan and no effective response to what is an ever-worsening crisis.
“We are dangerously close to hitting the official homeless figure of 11,000. When Eoghan Murphy was minister and the homeless figures crossed the 10,000 mark, there were calls for him to resign.
“Darragh O’Brien has presided over a 25% increase in homelessness in the past 12 months alone. If current trends continue, we could be at 11,000 adults and children in funded emergency accommodation by the Ministry of Housing by September.
“His position is becoming more and more untenable.
Wayne Stanley, policy and communications manager at Simon Communities of Ireland, said: “Today’s figures again confirm that homelessness has returned to pre-Covid levels.
“Our own Lock Out of the Market reports show that the lack of properties to rent at affordable rates is a major factor in this.
“CSO figures released yesterday indicate that there are now 166,752 vacant homes across the country. It is unacceptable to have so many vacant homes when there are 10,325 homeless people.
“The whole country is plagued by rising rents and a lack of supply.
TACKLING VACANT HOMES
“The fight against vacancies offers an opportunity to rapidly increase our social housing stock; something we desperately need to do to help the over 10,000 homeless men, women and children find housing.
Social Democrat housing spokesman Cian O’Callaghan said there was no excuse for inaction.
He said: “There are now 10,325 people living in emergency accommodation, including 3,028 children. This is a 29 per cent increase on the same period last year, when there were 7,991 people living in emergency accommodation.
“The Minister must pull his head out of the ostrich and take urgent action to prevent even more people from becoming homeless. If the Minister does not act now, the number of homeless people will reach record levels in the coming months.
“Disturbing reports from parts of the country indicate that, with emergency accommodation running out, local authorities are turning away people who need help and have nowhere to go.”
“We now have over 10,000 homeless people and over 160,000 vacant homes. That’s nearly 16 empty homes for every homeless person.
“The government needs to fast-track a tax on vacant homes to get those homes back into use and stop making excuses for their inaction.”