The North West Simon Community has welcomed a 21% reduction in the number of people who were homeless during Christmas week 2021.
Sixty-one adults and ten children accessed emergency accommodation during the week of 20-26 of December, 2021.
The statistics show a decrease both month on month (21.1%) and year on year (15.47%).
North West Simon Community said the decrease is “very welcome” but pointed out that the Government’s homeless figures relate only to households approved for social housing support by the local authorities. They do not include households frequently described as the “hidden homeless” that may be sleeping rough, living in refuges, or staying with parents, relatives and friends in overcrowded conditions.
Noel Daly, General Manager of North West Simon Community said: “The decrease in the number of people in homelessness in December, was a good deal better than expected, and provides a welcome respite for people living in very traumatic circumstances. Past trends indicate that over Christmas, family and friends help out where they can, and the number of people in emergency accommodation is reduced. Even if the change proves to be temporary, every day a person can spend free from the uncertainty and trauma of homelessness is welcome. However, if past trends hold up, the numbers will likely increase again over the first quarter of 2022. In fact, well beyond that if significant action is not taken.”
The charity says that one glimmer of hope for struggling households is the review by the Department of Housing of the “discretion available to Local Authorities under HAP”. Minister for Housing, Darragh O Brien T.D. in a written reply to two North West TDs, said “the review is at an advanced stage”. Both Independent T.D. Marian Harkin and Padraig Mac Lochlainn T.D. of Sinn Fein had written to the Minister on foot of concerns raised by North West Simon Community about how the Mica Allowance might affect the rental market in the region.
North West Simon Community believe the Minister’s concern that “increasing the current HAP rent limits could have negative inflationary impacts,” is no longer justifiable.
Noel Daly says, “the latest Locked Out of the Market Study undertaken by Simon Communities of Ireland, shows that the market is already well ahead of the current HAP limits. The December study found 1 property advertised to rent within Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) limits, in Co Leitrim and none in Sligo Town. According to daft.ie, average rents rose by 18.3% in Sligo, 19.7% in Donegal, and 21.6% in Leitrim in the year to Q3 2021.
“The distance between HAP rates and market cost means that topping up is rife and becoming more unsustainable. We must respond with solutions that will prevent individuals and families from being evicted into homelessness. In the first instance, we have to look at urgently increasing supports to prevent people having to enter homelessness.
“North West Simon Community has submitted funding proposals to increase Homeless Prevention and Outreach Services in all three local authority areas.
“Meanwhile, Simon Communities of Ireland continues to work with the members of the Oireachtas and the Minister to advance the Simon Prevention Bill, which would allow local authorities delay an eviction where a risk of homelessness exists. In the medium term, there may also be opportunities for Government to turn its attention to vacant and derelict properties, and bring additional housing capacity on stream in the medium term. It will be important that these and other initiatives are actively supported by Government if we are to achieve the Housing For All objective of eradicating homelessness by 2030.”