The Government is undercounting the number of people who are homeless by up to 20 per cent, Sinn Féin has claimed.
The latest official figures from the Department of Housing show there are 8,737 people in emergency accommodation in the country.
But Sinn Féin says the true figure is over 10,000 because those accessing services not provided by the Department of Housing are not included in those numbers.
Housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin said those accessing domestic violence services operated by Tusla, charity-based homeless services, former asylum seekers and rough sleepers are among those not being included in official tallies.
He said: “There are many more people, in fact about 20 per cent more than the Department of Housing’s report indicates, who are in emergency accommodation funded by other Government departments.
“So for example, on any given night there are almost 600 adults and children in domestic violence refuges funded by Tusla and their lead department.
“There are over 1,000 adults and children who are former asylum seekers, but have secured international protection and leave to remain, but are trapped in direct provision, essentially using it as emergency accommodation funded by the Department of Justice.
“There are several hundred individuals in religious hostels that don’t receive any Government funding and therefore they’re not counted at all.
“And of course on any given night we have between 90 and 100 rough sleepers.
“The real level of homelessness in terms of people who tonight will be in emergency accommodation or sleeping on the streets, is over 10,000, 20 per cent higher than the Government’s official figures.”
He added: “This isn’t just a matter of statistics.
“If you’re not counting a problem properly, then how do you know the level of investment that’s required in housing to get those adults and children out of emergency accommodation, or off the street and into homes?
“Therefore we’ve been calling for some time for the Government to change the way in which they count and publish the homeless figures so that it’s clear that we have a full count throughout all Government departments.”
Mr Ó Broin warned that there could be over 3,000 children who are homeless this Christmas.
This Christmas over 3,000 children will not sleep at home.
Tomorrow the Dáil will debate & vote in my Bill to Prevent Homelessness.
It's time for the government to act. pic.twitter.com/WvVzoariPA
— Eoin Ó Broin (@EOBroin) December 14, 2020
On Tuesday Sinn Féin will use their private members’ time to introduce the Homeless Prevention Bill to the Dáil.
If passed, it will require local authorities to put in a homelessness prevention plan in place for families and individuals 60 days before they become homeless.
This would include people with notice to quit the private rental sector, people leaving prison or care services, people leaving rehab and a range of other circumstances.
Mr Ó Broin said: “The situation today is if I’m at risk of homelessness and my notice to quit expires in 60 days and I go to my local authority, they tell me to come back in 60 days time.
“What this would do is make local authorities far more proactive in putting in place solutions for people before they become homeless.”
The latest figures from the Department of Housing show that for the month of October there were a total of 8,737 people in emergency accommodation nationwide.
That figure includes 2,642 children, an increase of 59 on the previous month, when it was 2,583.