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Children aged four and younger are the largest single age group experiencing homelessness, according to figures from Census 2016.
Five years earlier in Census 2011 people in the 30-34-year-old category were the single largest cohort of homeless.
The analysis of homelessness, the fifth of 13 profile reports by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), showed that 765 children from under one year to four years of age were homeless on census night last year. The next largest group in homelessness by age was the 25-29 category with 730 affected, followed by 699 homeless people aged 35-39.
Housing and homeless charity Focus Ireland has described the statistic on children as the “most shocking” finding of the report.
The report reveals that 6,096 people were homeless or in emergency accommodation on April 24th, 2016, when the census was taken.
A total of 1,846 children, or 27 per cent of the total, were homeless including 1,720 in families.
The latest official statistics show the problem has since worsened with 1,365 families homeless at the last count. The Department of Housing last week recorded 7,941 homeless people in emergency accommodation including 5,046 adults and 2,895 children.
National spokeswoman for the Simon Community Niamh Randall called on Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy to include homelessness as a sub-strategy in the Government’s “Rebuilding Ireland” housing strategy to “deal with the issue and for all”.
A spokesman for the Minister said Rebuilding Ireland was being reviewed one year on and all the agencies involved in homelessness had already been invited to make submissions for the future of the strategy. The completed review is expected in September.
Campaigner on homelessness Fr Peter McVerry criticised Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s remarks in the Dáil in July on housing when he said there were 90,000 people on the housing list but many if not most had houses and apartments but wanted different accommodation “more appropriate to their needs”.
Writing in Friday’s Irish Times Fr McVerry suggests the Government is still in denial about the extent of the crisis. “We have been told by the person ultimately responsible for Government policy. Most of those waiting on housing are already housed!”
He said there were 210,000 on the housing list including 84,000 children and those wanting different houses and apartments “could not of course have anything to do with the huge numbers of individuals and families becoming homeless, having been thrown out of their private rented accommodation”.
The Society of St Vincent de Paul said the growing number of families and particularly children now homeless required urgent action. The charity’s social policy development officer Jennifer Thompson said families in such situations faced complex issues.
She said CSO figures “provide an important insight into the nature of homelessness that we are facing at the moment and can guide targeted policies and actions needed to address the homeless crisis”.
CSO senior statistician Deirdre Cullen said the figures showed a new cohort of homeless than the traditionally understood pattern of homelessness, including more people who have “tripped up” economically.