Ireland
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Long-term homeless should get greater share of social housing - Focus Ireland

The homelessness charity Focus Ireland has warned that a record level of social housing delivery has not helped struggling families as the number of people using its services rose by almost a third last year.

Its 2022 annual report, which will be launched on Wednesday, showed it helped 16,000 people during 2022 compared to 12,300 the year before.

The charity recorded a 24 per cent increase in the number of households it either supported to leave homelessness or prevented from becoming homeless.

“The number of people homeless shot up in 2022 by 27 per cent and our staff worked harder than ever to provide vital support for families and individuals,” said Focus Ireland chief executive Pat Dennigan.

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He said the 30 per cent increase in the number of people requiring its help was due to multiple factors including new services but the rise in homeless numbers was central.

“Sadly, the crisis has continued to deepen again this year as now a record total of 12,847 people are homeless.”

Focus Ireland is called for the creation of a social housing allocation policy that would give “fairer access” to households trapped in homelessness for extended periods.

The charity helped 1,668 families during the year, a 9 per cent increase on 2021, and 4,235 children, a 27 per cent increase.

Earlier this year, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien pointed to the completion of 10,263 social homes during 2022, a 12 per cent increase on the previous year and a level representing “the highest annual output of social homes in decades”.

“The Government must address this urgently. A fairer distribution of new housing would lift many children, families, and individuals out of homelessness more quickly, which would have the knock-on positive impact of easing the burden on over-stretched homelessness services.”

Many of its key metrics were up – over 600 households were supported to keep their homes by the charity during 2022, an increase of 18 per cent. Over 8,000 engaged with its advice and information service, an increase of 8.5 per cent.

The charity also helped hundreds of adults through its Preparation for Education, Training and Employment (PETE) service.

Focus Ireland’s founder Sister Stanislaus Kennedy drew particular attention to the effects of the problem on children.

“It is beyond shocking that over 3,800 children are homeless. As a society we must move beyond saying that it is ‘disappointing’ to see the latest record homelessness figures each month,” she said.

“We must state very strongly and consistently that these numbers are unacceptable. We need to see far more urgency by the Government.”

Among other measures she has advocated for are a reversal of property dereliction levels and a rapid jump in the number of new social homes built.