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People doubling up with relatives and women and children in refuges among 30,000 ‘hidden homeless’, charity says


A homeless person's tent on O'Connell Street

A homeless person's tent on O'Connell Street

A homeless person's tent on O'Connell Street

People forced to move back in with relatives, women and children in domestic violence shelters, and asylum seekers living in direct provision are among 30,000 ‘hidden homeless’ people not captured by official statistics, a leading charity has warned.

A new report from the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) has highlighted the issues facing over 30,000 ‘hidden homeless’ people nationwide.

The detailed report on housing and homelessness entitled Combating Housing Exclusion in Ireland, welcomes the publication of the Government’s Housing for All plan but warns more emphasis needs to be placed on eradicating child and family homelessness at source.

According to the study, another major area of concern is number of people who are not counted as homeless because of anomalies in homeless figures.

SVP says that the ‘official’ count of 8,132 people experiencing homelessness in July 2021 does not include over 20,000 individuals and families on the social housing list doubling up with friends or family, often known as the hidden homeless.

Nor does it include over 3,000 women and children in domestic violence refuges or almost 8,000 individuals living in direct provision.

SVP says it particularly welcomes the increased ambition regarding the State’s role in the provision of social and affordable housing and the commitment to work to eradicate homelessness by 2030.

However, the charity says it is disappointed that specific measures were not included to address rural homelessness and housing insecurity; an issue which it argues is of increasing concern for its volunteer members who are working in communities outside of the main urban areas.

The analysis of the Housing for All plan estimates that the social housing targets need to be increased to an average of 15,000 per year to meet current demand and reduce the reliance on the private rented sector to accommodate low-income households.

In the Housing for All plan the target for 2022 is 9,000 and from 2026 to 2030 the target is 10,200 homes per year.

SVP policy and research officer Marcella Stakem said, “the acute need for increased provision of social homes which will provide safety and security is to the forefront of the minds of SVP members who visit and support individuals, families and children living in substandard accommodation, insecure rented properties and emergency homeless accommodation.

“While the scale of long-term housing need outstrips the target set out in the Housing for All Plan, the shift towards the delivery of the direct build of social and affordable housing and increased capital investment is welcome.”

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“Importantly, as we wait for more social housing to come on stream, the commitment to review the level of discretion applied by Local Authorities for the Housing Assistance Payment is a positive development. This must include a review of the limits as this will be critical if we are to address the issue of HAP [housing assistance payment] top-ups which force so many families SVP assists into financial distress,” she continued.

SVP says there are over 600,000 people, including 140,000 children in Ireland living in substandard housing and it has welcomed the retention of the 25pc inspection rate by local authorities to ensure properties meeting minimum standards and the commitment to introduce minimum energy efficiency standards in the private rented sector.

It says these measures need to be backed up with clear strategies for delivery and the requisite level of funding.

Rose McGowan, SVP national president, said, “we welcome the publication of Housing for All as we urgently need it to deliver for the people SVP assists and to provide a pathway so the State can provide secure and affordable homes for people to live in vibrant and sustainable communities.”

Overall, the charity says a greater focus on those most acutely impacted by the homeless crisis is required to ensure no one is left behind.

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