Focus Ireland sees growing numbers of people struggling to make ends meet and at risk of losing their homes

A leading homeless charity has called for homeless families to be given priority in the allocation of social housing.

he call came as the number of homeless households in Ireland hit a record high in July.

Focus Ireland said its staff were struggling with “ineffective” housing policies with homelessness “beyond the point of crisis”.

The charity said the problem was now “a social emergency that requires urgent action”.

He called on the government to immediately put homeless families back at the top of the list when it comes to deciding which households are allocated the available social housing units.

The charity said it was “a sobering reality” of the current cost of living crisis that people had to choose between paying rent or utility bills.

In a pre-budget submission, Focus Ireland said the government needed to take a two-track approach of increasing the availability of social and affordable housing, combined with increased measures “to halt the rising tide of homelessness”.

The latest figures released by the Department of Housing show a record total of 10,568 people were homeless in July, including more than 3,000 children – the highest monthly total since October 2019.

The number of people registered as homeless has increased by more than 2,400 in the past 12 months.

Focus Ireland chief executive Pat Dennigan said the housing shortage continued to come under further pressure as the cost of living crisis came at a time when there had also been a surge in the number of owners selling their homes. properties and leaving the rental market. .

Mr Dennigan said the record homelessness figures made clear the need to put the homelessness crisis at the top of the government’s agenda.

“Rising homelessness is not inevitable and there are actions that could be taken immediately to curb the growing number of people who are becoming homeless each month,” Mr Dennigan said.

He said Focus Ireland services were seeing an increasing number of people struggling to make ends meet and therefore at risk of losing their homes.

“Most of these people are already receiving a HAP payment, which is intended to cover their housing needs, but clearly doesn’t,” Dennigan said.

“They can get help from our skilled frontline workers, but we are constantly faced with ineffective policies,” he said.

The charity had made a set of 15 recommendations to the government to address the growing number of homeless people, including increasing the supply of social and affordable housing for people with complex support needs and the development of a new strategy for the private rental sector.

Focus Ireland said people who had been in emergency accommodation for more than 12 months should be prioritized for intensive case management to facilitate their exit from homelessness.

He called for the creation of a homelessness prevention unit within the Ministry of Housing to support and streamline the measures taken by local authorities across the country to prevent families from losing their homes.

The charity also claimed there was a need to introduce incentives for small landlords to stay in the rental market to avoid families being evicted because landlords wanted to sell their property.

He warned that the 2023 budget must not let households who were already struggling to pay their bills down otherwise levels of homelessness and poverty would rise in Ireland over the coming year.