The 85% increase in homelessness in the North West region since May 2022 is truly appalling. Coupled with a 26% increase in child homelessness since last month, and homelessness in Leitrim being recorded separately for the first time, the need for new measures to urgently address this housing crisis is clearly evident. These statistics represent the highest number of individuals ever recorded as homeless in the North West, and also the highest number of children in emergency accommodation ever recorded in the region.

Noel Daly CEO of North West Simon Community was commenting after the publication of Government figures which show that the three Local Authorities in the North West region provided emergency accommodation to 170 individuals during the last week of May 2023. The Government’s Monthly Homelessness Report records that 117 homeless households including 20 families, comprising 25 adults and 48 children, and 97 single adults, were accommodated during the week of 22-28 May.

The numbers represent increases of 15.6% in homelessness month on month, and 84.7% increase year on year when compared with April 2023 and May 2022 respectively.

The rural nature of homelessness in the region is emphasised by the fact that 11 adults were provided with local authority-funded homeless accommodation in County Leitrim last month. For statistical reasons, the number homeless in adjoining counties are reported together, if there are less than ten adults homeless in one county. This is the first time that a separate figure was recorded for Leitrim, and Noel Daly fears that it won’t be the last time.

North West Simon Community’s Housing Information and Tenancy Service provided support to 84 households at risk of or experiencing homelessness in Leitrim in 2022, and we expect a similar number of households to seek support across the county during 2023. The demand for our services in counties Donegal and Sligo is equally strong and with significant deficiencies in the availability of affordable housing in each county, new measures to halt people’s progression into homelessness are urgently needed.

Nationally there were 12,441 people living in Local Authority managed emergency accommodation in the last week of May 2023. This latest figure represents a 51.49% increase in the number of people homeless, since Housing for All, the Government’s national strategy on housing was published in September 2021, and highlights the need for additional measures to be developed to respond to homelessness.

Noel Daly points out that the Monthly Homeless Reports published by Government relate only to individuals and families provided with emergency accommodation by the local authorities. They do not include households frequently described as the “hidden homeless”. People and families sleeping rough, living in cars and tents, sofa surfing, escaping domestic violence in refuges, sharing with parents, family, and friends, and/or living in houses unfit for habitation.

A Homeless Action Plan was approved by the Local Authorities in the region in March of this year and we must now see the speedy implementation of all aspects of the Action Plan to help stem the flow of people into homelessness, Mr Daly said.