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06.57 20 Dec 2017


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Updated: 14.50

There were 8,857 homeless people in Ireland accessing emergency accommodation last month, according to the latest figures from the Department of Housing.

The figures include 1,530 homeless families and 3,333 children. 

Last month's figures show an average increase of 4% compared to October.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy acknowledged the increase is disappointing - but suggested more rough sleepers are now accessing emergency accommodation.

He observed: "We were anticipating an increase in the number of homeless adults recorded in November because we have been bringing new bed-spaces on-line as part of both our cold weather initiative and the opening of new facilities as promised. 

"What this means is that people who had been sleeping rough are now engaged with homeless services and so included in the numbers."

He admitted fewer people exited emergency accommodation compared to previous months, saying: "We will find additional opportunities for exits as new homes are brought into the social housing stock on a weekly basis, we will continue our hub programme; and we will redouble our efforts on prevention.

"Families and children in emergency accommodation are our first concern.”  

Anthony Flynn, CEO of Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH), suggested the figures would likely be higher if the figures included people who were 'couch surfing' or sleeping rough outside city centres.

He argued: "Although we have seen a slight decline in the number of individuals sleeping rough the number of families and children is still on the rise. This is a result of systemic policy failure.

"[The Government's housing action plan] Rebuild Ireland is failing and unless we address this issue the crisis will continue to grow."

"Simply not sufficient any longer"

Director of advocacy with Focus Ireland, Mike Allen, says if Minister Murphy has the resources he says he has he needs to speed up fixing the crisis.

"The polices that are currently in place to deliver housing are not going to turn that problem around for three to four years - and that is too long.

"And if the minister has the wooer and the resources to solve the problem he should do so - and if he hasn't got the power and the resources to solve the problem he should say that publicly and demand that power and resources.

"Saying he can do it and not doing it is simply not sufficient any longer".

Fr Sean Donohue is co-director of the Capuchin Day Centre.

He says we need to remember the people behind the numbers.

"While the statistics are important, we have to realise and remember there are people behind these figures.

"Individuals who are scared, who are frightened, who are lonely, who are damaged people, who are anxious.

"What we do here is try to alleviate that with respect and dignity for al who come here".

Sinn Féin's Eoin Ó Broin said that the crisis deepens 'every single month', suggesting that “Minister Murphy must change policy or resign”.

 Additional reporting: Jack Quann


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