Homeless families and individuals are being turned away and told to source their own accommodation in Limerick as there are now no emergency beds available.
The latest figures, which put the number of people without a home over the 10,000 mark for the first time since the pandemic, show there are now 109 children listed as officially homeless in the Mid-West region, which covers Limerick city.
Limerick TD Maurice Quinlivan said homelessness in the city was "spiralling to new and concerning levels" and that he has been inundated with calls from those at risk of losing their homes who are unable to find an alternative.
"Many are working families, often in great distress, who feel utterly abandoned by the State in their hour of need," he said.
Many simply do not earn enough to be able to afford a mortgage, but neither do they meet the income thresholds to avail of social housing supports.
"Even if they did, the Limerick housing list extends to 2,214 people and they have no hope of being housed, with thousands more people in precarious housing assistance payment, HAP, properties who live in fear of getting a notice to quit," he said.
The Sinn Féin TD said he had been contacted by a family of seven last week. Both parents are working, however they were unable to find any rental accommodation after their tenancy came to an end. Mr Quinlivan said he could not direct them to a temporary emergency accommodation solution as the units are all full.
"Emergency accommodation in Limerick often includes a variety of properties such as hotels, bed and breakfast accommodation, hostels, and temporary accommodation, and there is now a deep concern some families will be unable to access any of these forms of accommodation."
A Limerick City and County Council spokesperson confirmed that currently all emergency accommodation is "full, or near to capacity".
"Anyone presenting when a place isn’t available is given money to self-accommodate, which is in line with legislation," the spokesperson added.
Una Burns, head of policy and communications with homeless support organisation Novas, said many people are now spending years in what should be only short-term emergency accommodation, because of soaring rental costs and a lack of properties.
"The biggest problem with the lack of emergency accommodation is that homeless single people are spending so long in emergency accommodation because they cannot access anything in the private rented market," she said.
"There is such a dearth of one-bed units, they're spending years and not months in emergency accommodation.
Nowhere to go
"Therefore, there's no throughput, nobody is leaving that emergency accommodation, so then when new people present there's nowhere for them to go," she said.
With many hotels and other tourist accommodation full for the summer season, organisations such as Novas are now increasingly looking to secure emergency alternatives for those without a home, such as student accommodation which becomes free outside of term time. Homelessness groups also work to come up with arrangements with extended family members.
However, she said this can involve separating families, adding that child homelessness has many traumas associated with it and can bring about lots of adverse childhood experiences.
"We have had the highest proportion of homelessness outside of Dublin for a while now. While nationally we saw a really sharp drop in family homelessness during the pandemic because of the freeing-up of short-term and temporary leases that might have traditionally gone to your Airbnb, we didn't see any decline in single adults presenting as homeless," Ms Burns said.
Limerick City and County Council has made the Department of Housing aware of severe pressures on access to emergency accommodation in the city due to a variety of reasons.
"We understand that the council is doing everything in its power to address this. Resources and funding are not an obstacle in the ongoing efforts required to resolve this issue," a spokesperson for the Housing Department said.
The spokesperson said responsibility for the provision of emergency accommodation and related services for homeless persons rests with individual local authorities.
By contrast, the number of adults in emergency accommodation in Cork has fallen in recent months. The April numbers decreased by 2% compared March 2022 and fell by 5% since February 2022.