Homelessness campaigners demand action as figures reach new record levels

Campaigners have claimed the Housing Minister Simon Coveney has “dropped the ball” in relation to the crisis

A new record high of over 7,600 people were homeless in April according to the latest figures from the Department of Housing.

The statistics - which only came to light late last night - show that more than 2,700 of these are children.

It is the 13th consecutive month that the number of people in need of emergency accommodation has risen.

There are now 1,300 families homeless in Ireland - an increase of 26% on April 2016.

It comes as homeless charities revealed families in need of shelter are now being told to go to Garda stations due to a lack of emergency accommodation.

"Dropped the ball"

Homelessness campaigners have claimed the Housing Minister Simon Coveney has “dropped the ball” in relation to the crisis – as he continues his campaign to become the next leader of Fine Gael.

Anthony Flynn CEO of Inner City Helping Homeless says the record numbers are “completely unacceptable.”

“We have seen promise after promise in regard to the end of emergency accommodation use by Minister Simon Coveney,” he said. “I think the figures indicate that that is not going to happen by July.”

“We haven’t seen a month-on-month reduction in those figures in any way shape or form.

“Things are only getting worse and with what happened this week, with families being referred to garda stations and having to sleep on office floors and charity office – it is proof in the pudding that it is not going to happen by July.”

Mr Flynn said he believes the minister has been “too concentrated” on the Fine Gael leadership battle as the housing crisis deepens.

“The eye has been taken off the ball to a certain extent,” he said. “We are in crisis. We have seen this creeping up on us for long time.”

“Father McVerry was quoted saying there was going to be a ‘homeless tsunami’ – the tsunami has hit us, we are seeing children out there on the streets and being referred to garda stations.

“The problem is here and now. The problem needs to be fixed, it needs to be addressed; we need to stop looking at the longer term and focus on short to medium term issues.”

A "line in the sand"

In a statement as the numbers were announced, homelessness charity Focus Ireland the latest figures must be seen as a “line in the sand” for the government.

“They must see this cannot continue,” reads the statement.  

"These highly disappointing figures come in what has been a distressing week for a number of families who are homeless.

“Minister Coveney has put in place a range of effective measures, and cannot be faulted for the energy he has brought to the task, but the continued rise in homelessness shows that these efforts need to be redoubled and require the full support across all Government departments.''

Extra emergency accommodation

Meanwhile the Minister of State for Housing and Urban Renewal has said new emergency accommodation has been added to the system – to strop families from having to sleep in public parks.

It comes after four families slept in parks on Tuesday night, when neither local authorities nor housing charities could find commercial space for them.

It is thought to be the first time that emergency accommodation could not be found, in any venue, for homeless families.

Meanwhile, speaking in the Dáil, the Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has defended the government’s housing strategy, insisting that while this week’s events were “unacceptable,” the strategy is working.