Focus Ireland Issues Warning Over Rise in Numbers Sleeping Rough

Focus Ireland said today that new figures which show an all-time high since the count began in 2007 - of 139 people sleeping rough in Dublin - must act as an urgent warning that a growing number of people are at risk due to the recession. 

On 12 November, there were 139 people sleeping rough in the city. That is an increase of nearly 50% - or by 45 people - since the previous street count in April this year.

The new figures just issued by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive show 139 people were found sleeping rough last month despite the fact that the 80 extra emergency beds provided each year under the annual Cold Weather strategy were in place when the count took place.

Focus Ireland said this shows a growing need and maintains that rough sleeping remains a consistently serious problem due to the continued lack of access to housing to help support people to move on from being homeless.  The charity called for improved access to suitable emergency accommodation and move on housing all year round in order to end long term homelessness and the need to sleep rough by the target date of the end of 2016.

Focus Ireland staff are out on the street working every day and night of the year supporting people sleeping rough (As part of a Street Outreach team run jointly with Dublin Simon.  The team work to support people to get in off the streets but this work is being hindered by lack of access to move on housing.

The charity said housing supply is a key factor and one that needs to be made a priority by the whole of Government if the target date set by Housing Minister Jan O’Sullivan to end long-term homeless by the end of 2016 is to be achieved.

"The need to deliver better access to move on housing is now more crucial than ever.”

Focus Ireland CEO Joyce Loughnan said :“The rough sleeping count figures are very concerning with numbers at all an time high since the count began in April 2007 with a rise of  just under a 50% rise since Spring. On top of this with figures showing that six additional people are accessing homeless services every day and only two of these being moved out of homelessness and into housing it’s clear that more urgent action is required. The need to deliver better access to move on housing is now more crucial than ever.”

A Focus Ireland conference last week highlighted the need to tackle the issue of voids in local authority housing units as many housing units are currently unoccupied due to needing repair or upgrade work.  The charity said this would be one way to increase access to housing quickly is this issue was addressed.

The rise in the rough sleeper count reflects the trend of spike in demand for services for the charity. In the past ten months of this year compared to last year Focus Ireland has seen a rise of 18% in the number of people seeking its support. Focus Ireland supported a total of 9,237 people so far this year who were homeless or at risk of losing their home, compared to 7,819 people during this same period last year.

Ms. Loughnan continued: “The problem of homelessness is not only rough sleeping. We are now seeing more people at serious risk of losing their homes due to the impact of the recession and it’s highly concerning to see the rise numbers of families becoming homeless. In Dublin alone the number of families becoming homeless has recently doubled from 8 to 16 every month. Worryingly, 5 children a week are losing their family home. Most of these families were previously living in private rented accommodation. Prevention is cheaper than cure and we call for increased investment in housing advice services, such as those provided by Focus Ireland across the country, to help people at risk of homelessness deal with their problems before they lose their homes.”

Focus Ireland said new figures also show a massive 43% increase in the number seeking Housing Advice from Focus Ireland services to prevent them losing their homes - to a total of 4,248 between Jan to Oct this year compared to a total of 2,973 people during the same ten months in 2012. These vital lifeline services are largely funded by public fundraising and require public donations to continue people can donate at www.focusireland.ie or by calling 1850 204 205  These vital lifeline advice and information services are funded largely by public donations.

Meanwhile, the charity urged anybody who is concerned about their accommodation to get in touch with its services immediately and contact details for local services are at www.focusireland.ie.