The number of homeless people in Ireland has fallen below 10,000 for the first time in nearly a year.
The latest Government figures show one of the largest monthly drops in people accessing emergency accommodation since records began.
The Department of Housing said there were 9,731 people accessing homeless services in December – a drop of 717 people on the previous month.
There were 1548 families accessing emergency accommodation with 3422 children.
While there is traditionally a decrease in homelessness in December, this year’s drop was far more significant than the decrease recorded this time last year.
Peter McVerry Trust CEO Pat Doyle said the drop “comes on the back of significant decline in the number of people sleeping rough in Dublin in winter 2019.”
“The year-end figures published show that 2019 was a record year for people exiting homelessness, with over 5,971 exits from homelessness – an increase of 16% on 2018.
“This underlines the enormous efforts from state agencies and organisations like Peter McVerry Trust to bring forward and delivery housing solutions for people impacted by homelessness.”
He said the challenge is now to “keep housing delivery up all year round and to ensure that we continue to provide housing solutions particularly for single people.”
The Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) charity said it was erring on the side of caution despite the ‘obviously welcome’ drop.
ICHH Head of Communications Brian McLoughlin said: Every year we see a decline in the figures in December as many families made homeless in December choose to stay with family or friends over the Christmas period rather than spend the holidays in emergency accommodation.”
“This has been a year on year trend and figures that come out in March usually see the spike begin again and by the summer the numbers continue to rise.”
He said ICHH volunteers supported 131 people on the streets of Dublin last night.
“We also cannot lose sight of the fact that people sleeping on the streets, in parks and squats are not counted – nor are families in domestic abuse shelters, people in direct provision, people couch surfing or living in overcrowded family homes,” he said.
“Beware of the false dawn with the general election a week away. Until we see serious reductions month after month we cannot allow the department to gloss over the seasonal declines.
He said the charity believes the homelessness crisis will continue to escalate for as long as government relies on private rental market and private developers to address it.
The Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy last year was the first in which the number of people in emergency accommodation has fallen.
“I know that this decrease is not enough and the number of people in crisis is unacceptably high, but the change in 2019 is a move in the right direction,” he said.
He said that the majority of people are now spending less than 12 months in emergency accommodation before they are found a home.
He said one in two families that present as homeless are found a home immediately and not enter emergency accommodation at all.