The number of people experiencing homelessness in Ireland has risen above 10,000 for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
New figures released by the Department of Housing show there were 10,049 people in emergency accommodation in April, with the figure including 1,308 families and 2,944 children.
The official figure, up 224 people on March’s total, marks the fourth consecutive month homelessness has risen in Ireland as the crisis returns to pre-pandemic levels.
The number from Government does not include Ukrainian refugees in pledged accommodation, those living in Direct Provision, women in refuge centres or rough sleepers.
Dublin continues to have the highest number of people in emergency accommodation, with just under 5,000 adults and 950 children, followed by Cork, Galway, Limerick and Meath.
Amid the rise, homelessness charities lamented progress made to combat the crisis that has now been lost.
It is appalling to see that the progress made through such hard work during the pandemic has so quickly been lost
The number of people experiencing homelessness first rose above 10,000 in February 2019, and was last over this level in February 2020.
“It is appalling to see that the progress made through such hard work during the pandemic has so quickly been lost, and we are back to rising numbers of adults and children experiencing homelessness,” said Focus Ireland chief Pat Dennigan.
“Crossing this dreadful threshold must trigger a much stronger and urgent response from the Government and we must not drift to ever higher levels.”
The charity said practical measures which would make “an immediate difference” included effective regulation to stop rented homes being turned into short-term holiday lets, encouraging landlords to stay in the market and tackling issues with the Housing Assistant Payment (HAP).
Despite soaring inflation and rising rents, HAP levels have not increased since 2016, the charity said.
The Simon Communities of Ireland meanwhile called for urgent action on vacant properties to address the crisis.
“While nothing in housing is straight forward, the more than 90,000 vacant homes in the State hold real potential in getting ahead of this crisis,” said head of policy and communication Wayne Stanley.
“The time has come for a significant, sustained and well-funded programme that will bring vacant properties back into use for those experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
“This would provide the headroom in the housing system that is needed if we are to get ahead of the homelessness crisis.”
Depaul said it was not “not surprised” by the official homelessness figure once again surpassing 10,000.
“We are dismayed but not surprised to see the number of homeless people exceed 10,000. Trends have been going up since the middle of the year and the number of single people in homelessness remains stubbornly high,” said chief executive David Carroll.
“The current state of the private rental sector is one of the main factors playing a part in homelessness.
“Single people are being priced out of the housing market – the average rent in Ireland is over €1,250 per month, in Dublin it is more than €1,750 – HAP doesn’t cover this.”
He warned the official figure “sadly don’t represent the full scale of housing needs in Ireland.”
“We know that there are currently 2,700 individuals in Direct Provision who have status but have nowhere to go. This underlines our challenge in achieving our goal of eradicating homelessness by 2030.”