Local authorities are struggling to find places for people to sleep as number of evictions continues upward surge
Fears are growing that the homelessness crisis is going to deteriorate this winter as some local authorities are having to turn people seeking emergency accommodation away.
The Irish Independent contacted all city and county councils about the availability of emergency housing and the majority which responded are currently at capacity or have limited vacancies.
Housing charity Threshold said tenants are being evicted from rental accommodation in “unprecedented numbers” and has warned that homelessness figures are likely to rise in the coming months.
The Department of Housing’s latest figures shows the number of homeless people has reached a record high of 10,568, including 7,431 adults and 3,137 children.
However, this number does not include rough sleepers or people living in hidden homelessness, of which the Simon Community estimates there may be as many as 290,000, following new research.
Councils will be implementing their cold-weather strategies in November and are aiming to increase overall capacity, but at the moment many have no space available.
All emergency accommodation provided by local authorities in Galway, Limerick, Mayo, Kilkenny, Sligo and Clare is currently at capacity.
A spokesperson for Limerick City and County Council said anyone presenting when a place isn’t available is given money to self-accommodate, “in line with legislation”.
Temporary accommodation in the Dublin region is “operating to full capacity most nights”, with the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) currently tendering for more accommodation to increase availability.
Clare County Council said it is operating a waiting list “as there are movements in the service with over 200 housing allocations so far in 2022”.
Longford County Council has access to two homelessness hostels, which currently have no vacancies.
Tipperary County Council had 10 rooms available on Friday, while Cork City Council said it currently has adequate accommodation to “meet our needs”. Cork County Council said the number of rooms available changes depending on demand, with up to 12 rooms available.
Leitrim County Council said it accesses emergency accommodation through B&Bs and hotels, but currently does not need to avail of it. Roscommon has no specific emergency accommodation, while Sligo said it does not have accommodation available at present.
Mayo County Council “does not have any temporary emergency accommodation available in Mayo at present – the units we have are fully utilised and do not have any availability”, according to a spokesperson. They added: “We use B&B type accommodation for any further presentations on a case-by-case basis.”
Waterford City and County Council currently has 68 units of emergency accommodation available. All other local authorities did not respond to queries.
Tenants living outside Rent Pressure Zones (RPZ) are seeing rent increases of up to 60pc, and in some cases, people are having their rent doubled
Threshold’s policy officer Ann-Marie O’Reilly told the Oireachtas Housing Committee how some people had been turned away by local authorities, who are under significant pressure due to a lack of available accommodation.
“People are sleeping on couches, in cars or rough sleeping and they are not counted in the official homeless figures,” she said.
Ms O’Reilly warned how the increasing cost of living is having a detrimental impact on tenants, and raised concerns about rent hikes forcing people into homelessness.
Tenants living outside Rent Pressure Zones (RPZ) are seeing rent increases of up to 60pc, and in some cases, people are having their rent doubled. She said tenants are putting up with invalid rent increases as they fear losing their homes if they speak up.
Cabinet ministers have been warned the increased number of people seeking emergency accommodation is putting added pressure on supply at a local authority level.
A significant increase in European Economic Area (EEA) citizens seeking emergency accommodation in Ireland was also noted over the last five years.
In 2016, figures show 9.6pc of people seeking emergency accommodation were from EEA countries. This rose to 19.4pc last year. In July, 26.2pc of single adults seeking accommodation were EEA nationals.