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Family homelessness quadrupled in space of six years as crisis in housing spiralled


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The number of families in emergency accommodation more than quadrupled in six years as the homeless crisis spiralled.

Middle-aged people were the fastest-growing age group to become homeless and one-parent families now make up more than half of all homeless families when they only account for a quarter of families in society at large.

The people and household types that make up the homeless statistics are revealed in an analysis of more than 500 reports produced by local authorities and central government since 2014.

Focus Ireland and Trinity College Dublin jointly carried out the research in an effort to identify which groups are most likely to become homeless and how their particular needs might be met.

"In order to end any crisis, it is vital to fully understand the situation," said Mike Allen of Focus Ireland.

For the past year, the total number of homeless adults and children in the country has hovered around 10,000, more than three times the figure when the Department of Housing began standardising data collection in 2014.

But within those numbers are some striking trends showing how people's risk of homelessness varies with geography, age, gender and family type.

For example, there were 345 homeless families countrywide at the start of the period but that has grown to 1,548 at last count.

Just how fast the problem escalated is illustrated by the fact that five families presented as homeless in the Dublin region in the early days but, since then, an average of 63 families have become homeless every month.

There were also 10 individual months when more than 100 families became homeless. In July 2019, a record 124 families became homeless.

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Child homelessness was rare outside Dublin when recording started, accounting for only 5pc of all homeless children, but it is now 25pc.

Men outnumber women in emergency accommodation by 60pc to 40pc but the rate at which women are becoming homeless has increased faster, a trend linked to the rise in homeless one-parent families.

Around 60pc of all homeless adults are between 25 and 44, but the 45-64 age group has grown most with a 231pc increase since 2014.

Time spent in emergency accommodation has also increased substantially. Last December, 755 families had been homeless for longer than six months. This represents 65pc of all homeless families.

The number of adults in emergency accommodation for more than six months grew from just under 800 at the start of 2014 to almost 3,800 at the end of last year, a 370pc rise.

Those figures are highlighted as it was the stated aim of government policy in 2014 to end long-term homelessness, which was measured as anything over six months.

Use of private emergency accommodation such as hotels and bed and breakfasts has dominated the response to homelessness with the numbers referred to such services quadrupling since 2014.

Government spending on day-to-day accommodation and support services has also quadrupled, from €57m to €217m, with 45pc of it going to the private sector.

Just over a third of households exiting homelessness secured social housing while the remainder went to the private rented sector, most assisted by the HAP (Homeless Assistance Payment).

Mr Allen said the analysis was the first in what would become a quarterly 'Focus on Homelessness' report.

He said they would examine the latest figures submitted by local authorities and the Department of Housing and would each take an in-depth look at a particular aspect of homelessness.

"This unique collaboration with the School of Social Work and Social Policy at Trinity College Dublin clearly informs our work with the State to refine our services and to also develop policy recommendations that - if acted upon by Government - would help to greatly reduce the number of people becoming homeless," he said.

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