A LEADING homeless charity has said that the latest figures still remain "too high" despite a decrease in the amount of families presenting as homeless.
The Simon Communities of Ireland have said that while any decrease in the number of homeless people is to be welcomed, it is troubling that 9,753 people were forced to spend Christmas without secure accommodation of their own.
The organisation said it was "encouraging" to see a decrease of 111 homeless families compared to November but that the latest numbers don't include "the hidden homeless".
"At least 9,753 people in Ireland entered 2019 with no proper place to call home, including 3,559 children. These people are often trying to go about their regular lives in extremely stressful and trying circumstances," Paul Sheehan, a spokesperson for the Simon Communities said.
"Sadly, these numbers don’t even reflect the full picture. Rough sleepers or those in squats, women and children in refuges, those in direct provision and the ‘hidden homeless’ - those staying with family or friends as they have nowhere else to go – are not counted.
"These numbers underline the fact that there was a consistent upward trend in the number of people forced in emergency accommodation throughout 2018."
Mr Sheehan added that the charity are calling on a number of proposals to be implemented this year, including those in the new Residential Tenancies Bill 2018 currently under consideration in the Dáil.
"In particular, the proposals to address many of the loopholes in the existing bill around tenants’ security of tenure and minimum standards in rented accommodation could potentially make a huge difference to the lives of those who currently live with a lack of secure housing.
"For a sustainable long-term solution however, it’s vital that the State, in conjunction with Local Authorities and Approved Housing Bodies, build and invest in social and affordable housing across all tenure types nationwide."
Meanwhile, opposition TDs have warned that the number of children in emergency accommodation remains “shocking” and the Government still has not “got a grip on the homeless crisis”.
The criticism, from Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein, comes after the latest official figures showed the numbers in emergency accommodation fell last month by 215 to 9,753.
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy rejected claims that there were not enough beds for rough sleepers in the freezing weather.
The number of children in emergency accommodation stood at 3,559 last month, down 252 from November. The number of homeless adults increased by 37.
Mr Murphy said it was the fifth consecutive month when there had been a reduction in the number of families entering emergency accommodation.
Fianna Fail TD Darragh O’Brien said the decrease was welcome, but the number of children remained “shocking”.
He said ministers must invest in building homes, as it was “the only long-term solution to this national scandal”.
Sinn Fein’s Eoin O Broin also welcomed any drop in numbers, but said it was seasonal and cautioned against interpreting the figures as a sign of progress.
He said people provided with “own-door” emergency accommodation were excluded from the figures, despite being categorised as homeless.
He added that the numbers showed “the Government still has not got a grip on the crisis”.
Earlier, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald raised claims that there were no beds available in Dublin on Tuesday night and 86 people slept rough.
Mr Murphy insisted that homeless people were not being turned away from shelters and there was sufficient capacity.
He said homelessness was complex and some people refused to go to shelters “even when we have the worst type of weather imaginable”.
The Department of Housing responded to opposition criticism by saying the Government would increase the social housing stock by 50,000 by 2021.
It said 10,000 social homes would be added this year and €2.4bn would be spent across all housing programmes.
As Housing Minister, I've always been open to people's criticism. The Government doesn't have all the answers. People are hurting and they need help. As a community, we have to pool our best ideas together and drive them towards solutions to the housing shortage and homeless crisis.