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Sunday 11 December 2016

Number of homeless children increases by 350pc

Published 02/10/2016 | 02:30

Depaul CEO Kerry Anthony Photo: Damien Eagers
Depaul CEO Kerry Anthony Photo: Damien Eagers

The number of homeless children has increased by more than 350pc in the past three years, as a homeless charity reported a doubling in demand from vulnerable families who failed to find secure accommodation.

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The worsening housing crisis means 37pc less homeless people have been re-homed in the past two years because of a shortage of suitable accommodation.

Demand for homeless services increased by 25pc last year with 19 children born in shelters during 2015, according to homeless charity Depaul.

Recent figures released by the Department of Housing show there are currently 1,151 homeless families across the country. The majority of these come from Dublin as rents reached unprecedented highs in the capital in the past 12 months.

A total of 4,248 adults are currently accessing local authority managed accommodation.

Depaul CEO Kerry Anthony said the homelessness crisis has never been so bad and is having a devastating effect on exposed families.

More than 4,100 people accessed their services last year, double the number for 2013.

"In the 20 years I have worked in homeless services I have never seen it this bad. Over the past two years, Depaul has seen the number of families using our accommodation and community-based services more than triple," said Ms Anthony.

"The number of children using Depaul's services has increased by 363pc since 2013, from 106 to 491 children. This increase is a devastating by-product of the housing crisis which has seen more and more families pushed out of the housing market due to unaffordable rents and limited supply."

More than 491 children from 300 separate families access homeless services provided by Depaul last year.

Ms Anthony has urged the Government to accelerate progress on their action plan to address the issue because a lack of housing options is making the crisis worse.

The issue is so bad that emergency one-night-only accommodation set up last year as part of the Government Cold Weather Initiative to provide shelter to people at risk of sleeping rough remained open due to massive demand.

More than 1,950 people accessed the one-night services provided by Depaul last year.

A total 4,169 people received support from the charity in 2015 with 3,325 using their homeless services at a cost of €13.5m.

"The lack of affordable housing remains a huge barrier to our ability to move people away from homelessness and we urgently need more affordable housing solutions to mitigate the effects of long-term homelessness," said Ms Anthony. "We are confident that the Government's Housing and Homeless Action Plan, Rebuilding Ireland, is a step in the right direction to addressing these issues, and we urge its expeditious delivery."

She added an improved housing supply was not enough to address the issue and called for more social supports to be provided to tackle the issue.

Sunday Independent

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