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Record homeless figures tell story of a missed opportunity

Having reached over 10,000 for the first time in 2019, the number of homeless people in Ireland was reduced throughout the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, but 2022 has seen a regression, with record high amounts of people accessing emergency accommodation recorded in the consecutive months of July and August.

Having peaked at 10,448 total people accessing emergency accommodation in November 2019 during the pre-Covid era, numbers fell to a low of 7,991 in May 2021 over the course of the pandemic. However, this figure was still higher than any homelessness figure recorded in Ireland prior to June 2017.

Stats for 2022 show a failure to grasp the opportunity that the Covid pandemic had opened up: the chance to fight the record numbers of homelessness that predated the pandemic and ensure that the once-unthinkable figure of 10,000 homeless people in the State once again became unthinkable. The figure was breached again for the first time since the onset of the pandemic in April 2022, when 10,049 people, including 2,944 children, were recorded as having accessed emergency accommodation.

Figures have only worsened since then, rising to 10,325 (including 3,028 children) in May, 10.492 (3,071 children) in June, a record 10,568 (3,137 children), and, again, a record 10,805 (3,220 children) in August. As always with these government figures, it must be remembered that what is being collated here is the number of people accessing emergency accommodation, meaning that the true number of homeless people, when the ‘hidden homeless’ and rough sleepers are factored in, was almost certainly above 11,000 in August 2020.

The data across the months in 2022 where over 10,000 homeless people have been recorded show that the majority of homeless adults are in the 25-44 age group, with 53 per cent of the homeless adults in April belonging to that cohort, and 54 per cent in May, June, July, and August also falling within the age bracket. Second was the 45-64 age group, which recorded a 27 per cent proportion of homeless adults in each of these months.

As the year progressed, a miniscule change was recorded in the gender balance of the homeless adults. Having accounted for 65 per cent of the adult homeless population in April, May, and June, males accounted for 64 per cent of homeless adults in July and August.

As expected, the regional balance of the homeless population is heavily skewed towards Dublin. In April, 70.2 per cent of the 7,105 homeless adults and 73.1 per cent of the 1,308 homeless families were recorded in the county; in May, these figures stood at 70.9 per cent of 7,297 adults and 71.2 per cent of 1,366 families; in June, 70.9 per cent of the 7,421 adults were in Dublin, along with 71.5 per cent of the 1,385 homeless families; July saw 70.1 per cent of the 7,431 homeless adults in Dublin and 71.4 per cent of the 1,423 families; and August saw 70.2 per cent of 7,585 homeless adults and 71.9 per cent of 1,483 homeless families in the county. According to the 2022 census, the population of the State is 5,123,536, and the county of Dublin’s is 1,450,701, meaning that a city home to 28.3 per cent of the State’s total population is home to a consistent level of almost three quarters of its homeless population.

The figures also show a worrying return to figures of over 3,000 homeless children, not seen since April 2020. The figure, which had been reduced as far as 2,129 in July 2021, stood at 3,220 in August 2022, still short of the record 3,873 recorded in September 2019, but once again indicative of a nettle that has not been grasped, a story of a missed opportunity.