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Family homelessness quadrupled over six years of housing crisis

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Middle-aged people were the fastest-growing group to 
become homeless, according to the Focus Ireland report

Middle-aged people were the fastest-growing group to become homeless, according to the Focus Ireland report

Middle-aged people were the fastest-growing group to become homeless, according to the Focus Ireland report

Children, women, lone parents and the middle-aged were the newer faces of homelessness to emerge as the housing crisis worsened over the past six years.

Analysis by housing charity Focus Ireland and Trinity College Dublin drew on some 500 reports produced by local authorities and central government since 2014.

They found the number of families in emergency accommodation more than quadrupled in that time, from 345 to 1,548.

Middle-aged people were the fastest growing age group to become homeless.

One-parent families now make up more than half of all homeless families, while accounting for only a quarter of families in society.

Striking

Mike Allen of Focus Ireland said the study was carried out to try to see more clearly the people and household types who made up the homeless statistics.

"In order to end any crisis it is vital to fully understand the situation," he said.

The total number of homeless adults and children in the country now hovers around 10,000 - more than three times the figure when the Department of Housing began standardising data collection in 2014.

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

For example, 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.

Child homelessness was rare outside Dublin when recording started, accounting for just 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 years old 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.

The 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.

Payment

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 one-third of households exiting homelessness secured social housing, while the remainder went to the private rented sector, most assisted by the HAP payment.

Mr Allen said the analysis was the first in what would become a quarterly Focus On Homelessness report which would take an in-depth look at a particular aspect of the problem.

"This unique collaboration with 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.