The number of people recorded as homeless each month is ‘levelling off’, according to Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien.
The minister made the comments after the sixth month in a row of record-high homeless figures – with 11,632 people in total recorded in emergency accommodation in December, including 3,442 children.
This excludes rough sleepers and people turned away due to lack of capacity. It is also the first time homeless figures increased in December since the Department of Housing’s figures were first published in 2014, as many people take in families over the Christmas period.
It also comes amid Mr O’Brien’s winter eviction ban, which is in place from November until the end of March.
Calls have been made to extend the moratorium further, with fears raised that there could be a further surge in homelessness in April if it ends.
Speaking in Dublin on Monday, Mr O’Brien said new presentations in December caused a “slight” increase, but acknowledged that the homeless figures were too high.
“We’re seeing a levelling off on homeless numbers. It’s still too high, and I want to see those numbers come down because behind all those numbers are people, are families, are kids, many of whom I meet.
“But there are complexities within the homeless situation at the moment. We brought in very significant new protections around the winter eviction ban to give us space to deliver more properties.
“But I’m hopeful for this year, I’m hopeful in relation to new housing delivery – even all the challenges that we had around supply chain, cost inflation and that but we’re moving in the right direction.”
The minister added: “In previous Decembers we’ve had a decrease. There was a specific issue around new presentations as well to homelessness in the last month, we did see a decrease in family homelessness, and that is a positive.
“Still the largest cohort of those who are presented to homeless services are single men. And we need to make sure that there’s more suitable properties available for them by delivering more one-bedroom apartments.
“We’re seeing a levelling off, now what I want to see is a reduction, and we’ll do everything we can to make sure that we can reduce that number further.
“We are seeing people exiting homelessness at the one end but we’re seeing more enter it at the moment. And that’s something that remains a challenge but one we’ll get on top of.”
Mr O’Brien said the way to tackle homelessness was with supply, and said the government’s plan was going to deliver “the highest amount of social homes” in half a century.
It comes after the government missed its target to deliver 9,000 social homes last year by a third, though it exceeded its overall target to deliver 24,600 new-builds in 2022.
“Fundamentally to address that, we need to get housing supply up, so that people can exit from homelessness into safe and secure houses,” the minister said.
“And that’s why last week’s figures in relation to housing completions – just short of 30,000 (houses) – was really important. Because within that we’re going to see the highest amount of social homes delivered in about 50 years. And you don’t turn it around within one year of Housing for All.”
When asked about his position as housing minister, he said he had confidence in himself and that it wasn’t about him. “It’s not about me, it’s not about me. It’s about the government having a robust strategy that’s fully funded, which it is, and it’s actually taking hold now.
“We have a good pipeline for this year, (but) this year won’t be without its challenges,” he added.