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Homeless children and families in the capital are continuing to increase, though at a slower rate than earlier in the year.
Figures presented to councillors on Wednesday show there were 2,110 children in 1,026 families in emergency accommodation in the capital during the week of October 24th to 30th. Some 67 families, with 133 children, became newly homeless last month.
These latest figures compare with 2,065 children in 1,014 families in September, and represent an increase in children of 48 per and families of 51.5 per cent, since October 2015. Then, there were 1,425 children in 677 families in emergency accommodation in Dublin, with 72 the number of newly homeless families .
As with other months, about two-thirds of the homeless children (1,285) last month were in families headed by a lone parent.
In all, there were 3,486 homeless family members in hotels, B&Bs and supported accommodation in Dublin in October. In addition there were 1,660 adults without child dependents in emergency beds, giving a total homeless population of 5,146 in the capital. This does not include those sleeping rough, in domestic violence refuges or homeless non-nationals being dealt with by the New Communities Unit, which is operated by the Department of Social Protection.
Though the overall numbers in family homelessness are significantly higher than a year ago, the rate of increase has slowed.
This, say observers, is not because fewer families are losing their homes, but because more are exiting homelessness – mainly into tenancies in the private rented sector, with the help of the Housing Assistance Payment (Hap).
The average number of newly homeless families each month since October 2015 has been 81. The fewest in one month was in May, when 64 became homeless and the highest in January, when 125 families with 253 children became homeless.
The Hap was introduced in January 2015. It is paid at a higher rate than rent supplement and families or individuals can work and receive it. The number of Dublin households exiting homelessness to Hap tenancies increased from between 20 and 48 per quarter in 2015, to 161 in the first quarter of this year, 227 between April and June and 254 between July and September this year.
Figures from the Department of Housing show that nationally, while 1,141 households left homelessness in the first six months of 2015, this increased to 1,350 to the end of June this year.
Sam McGuinness, chief executive of the Dublin Simon Community said it was “encouraging” to see to see the rate of increase in homelessness slow down. But it was clear as people moved out of homelessness there was a “steady stream” of others to fill emergency beds.
Mike Allen, head of advocacy with Focus Ireland, said : “it was “wrong” and “totally unacceptable” that more than 2,100 children would be homeless in Dublin this Christmas.
“It should be of the happiest times of the year for children.
“We are proud in Focus Ireland that in the first 10 months of the year we, in partnership with the Dublin Region Homeless Executive and the local authorities, have supported 230 families, with 450 children , out of homelessness. However, as at least two families a day are still becoming homeless every day the crisis continues to deepen.”
He said banks and financial institutions were repossessing buy-to-let homes and “evicting tenants at a rate of 100 a month”.
He called on Government to “outlaw this practice and ensure that where banks repossess these properties they sell them on with the tenant still in place”.
The homeless executive said on Wednesday it would open an additional 210 emergency beds for rough sleepers in three locations in Dublin 7 and Dublin 8.
These will open within the next fortnight.