Homeless figures in Meath jumped by over 70% in three years

By Eoin Ryan

Meath County Council are calling on the Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien to introduce

emergency new initiatives for the homeless similar to those for students and Ukrainian refugees.

There are currently 231 adults and 96 children are reported homeless in Meath according to homeless figures for August 2022. This is a massive jump from 131 Adults and 60 children in May 2019 with this figure expected to significantly increase due to the cost of living and rental crisis. This is a jump of 136 people in three years, a 71% increase from 2019 figures. These statistics also do not include those sleeping rough, sofa surfing, or sleeping in their cars.

Alan Lawes started the Outreach service in Navan to support homeless people in the local area with the support of local companies and residents. he receives food and other supplies helpful to homeless people from shops such as supervalu and other families living in area, before going out to distribute them to the local homeless population.

Councillor Alan Lawes said that he has been told on multiple occasions by Meath County Council that there are no beds left in the system for homeless people. Those unable to get a bed are forced to sleep rough, some of which are children.

Meath County Council only runs their homeless support service from 9am to 5pm on weekdays, with no assistance for the homeless outside of these times. This means those looking for support services out of these hours are forced to sleep rough until their office opens again.

The situation is similar in other parts of the country with 10,492 reported homeless and 10,568 people accessing emergency accommodation in the last week of July. This is the seventh consecutive month where the number of people accessing emergency accommodation has risen.

“These figures are going to rise and I do not see any sort of emergency (plan) when it is obvious action is needed,” Lawes said.

There are approximately 60,000 households on local authority housing waiting lists, but a similar and growing number are in receipt of HAP payments in the private rented sector. meaning “the more accurate estimate for households with a housing need may be closer to 122,000″, according to a report from the Parliamentary Budget Office.

54 percent of those living in emergency accommodation were aged between 25 to 44. 4,444 were housed in private emergency accommodation, which includes hotels and B&Bs.

It takes five months on average for housing applications to be processed according to a Simon Communities statement. “That’s five months of waiting just to get on the waiting list, which can then take several years to yield a house, depending on your situation.” 

Research has shown that physical and mental health declines while in emergency accommodation due to lack of hope in the future.

“The continuing increase in the numbers accessing emergency accommodation is a serious concern,” Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, said. “The government, local authorities and those in our NGO sectors are making every effort to reduce homelessness. Key to this is the delivery of new social housing and boosting overall supply.”

47,600 social houses are to be provided by 2026 and 90,000 by 2030 under the Housing for All plan announced in last year’s budget in response to this. 

The only plan specific to homelessness prevention is the Housing First National Implementation Plan 2022-2026, caters to those with complex health and mental health needs. This is to give the most vulnerable of the homeless population a place to live and wraparound health and social support. 737 high-support needs individuals have been supported and put in permanent housing under this new scheme, 51 of which began in this yearly quarter. The rest of Ireland’s homeless population, however, have not received any form of support similar to this in recent years and have to wait on social housing or emergency accommodation.

A major factor adding to this increase is the current rental crisis with constant rental increases and only 851 were homes available to rent nationally on Daft.ie in May this year. According to the latest Daft rental report “for every 100 homes available to rent thirteen years ago, there are just 3 on the market today.” This reduction in supply has led to much greater demand, leading to a 12.6% rise in rental prices this year. This is the highest year-on-year increase in market rents since the launch of the Daft Report in 2005.

The Meath Council of Trade Unions believe that including the right to housing to the Constitution will help to improve Ireland’s current housing and homelessness crises. They believe this inclusion would require current and future governments’ housing policy to deliver on this right and make housing policy about people and not profit.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Housing wrote to the Irish government to express its

concern that “contrary to international human rights obligations, investment in housing in the

Republic of Ireland has disconnected housing from its core social purpose of providing

people with a place to live in with security and dignity,” in 2020.

Charities, due to a lack of support from the government, are now leading the fight against homelessness in Ireland and Meath. They have shown their effectiveness in managing a baseline level but donations are necessary to facilitate this support.

Food, Tents, and other supplies helpful to those rough sleeping can be donated to Outreach Navan and several other charities dedicated to supporting the homeless.

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