Focus Ireland helped record numbers of people facing homelessness last year

The number of homeless families rose by 31% in the past year

Focus Ireland supported a record 14,500 people facing homelessness last year - an increase of 7% on 2016.

The charity this morning released its Annual Report for 2017 with a warning that there has been a significant increase in the number of homeless families.

It said the number of homeless families rose by 31% 1,300 in May 2017 to 1,700 in May 2018.

The charity said it had helped over 1,000 families move out of homelessness and into secure homes last year.

Its housing wing, Focus Housing, also provided an extra 184 homes in 2017 as part of its plan to provide 600 by 2020.

Launching the report this morning, the charity’s founder Sr Stanislaus Kennedy warned: “We are in the middle of the worst homelessness crisis in living memory and it’s vital we speak about this and call for more to be done.”

“However, it’s important to also speak about the success stories as these show homelessness can be ended. It also puts a human face to the dreadful figures. 

“We must remember that we should not be distracted into squabbling about numbers. Of course we need reliable data but our main focus must always be the people and the solutions.”

Government figures

Sr Stan was referencing the ongoing controversy over Government homeless figures – after the Housing Minister removed around 800 people from the official count, claiming they had been wrongly classified as homeless.

Homeless charities have accused the Government of a cynical attempt to keep the overall figure below 10,000.

According to the latest Department of Housing count there was 9,846 homeless people in Ireland in May.

The number of children experiencing homelessness rose by 137 last month to 3,826.

It means the number of children without a home has shot up by nearly 40% over the last year.

"Closed doors"

Sr Stan was joined at the launch by Alex McGrath who was helped out of homelessness with the help of Focus Ireland.

He said the charity’s staff work all hours of the day to offer hope to men, women and children facing homelessness.

“Without Focus Ireland the terrible situation would be far worse,” he said.

“Before Focus Ireland came into my life I faced closed doors, now the only closed door I face is my own when get off the bus every evening.

“And I tell you it is great to have a home. I can plan for the future. Not just the day to day.”

Invisible crisis

A separate report warns that older people are an invisible part of the crisis - and that unless action is taken the situation is only going to get worse.

The charity ALONE is calling for an extra 122,000 homes over the next ten years, along with €850m in grants to help people upgrade their existing homes.

ALONE supports people like Thomas McCardle from Dublin - a recovering alcoholic who became homeless after his relationship broke down

So where would he be without that support?

“Dead,” he said.

“More than likely dead because the drinking before I quit was way over the top.”

Meanwhile, the latest report on student accommodation has found that while 3 thousand bed spaces have been built this year - there's still a shortage of 17,000 spaces across the country.

The accommodation that is available meanwhile, has been labelled 'too expensive,' with campaigners warning it resembles 'boutique hotels' rather than viable accommodation.