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Focus Ireland welcomes publication of new homeless data

By Sean Ryan - 11 August, 2017

“This census data ... demolishes many of the myths that people have about ‘the homeless’. It shows that people who are homeless look very much like everyone else in the population.”

Housing and homeless charity Focus Ireland has welcomed the publication of the ‘Homeless Persons in Ireland’ census results, and said it is shocked by some of its findings.

The charity, founded by Sr Stanislaus Kennedy of the Congregation of the Religious Sisters of Charity, said that the most shocking single finding in this report is that children aged between the ages of 0 and 4 are now the largest single age group experiencing homelessness.

In 2011 the largest single group were aged between 30 and 34. Focus Ireland says that this highlights the extraordinary increase in family homelessness over the 5 years – with 896 families recorded as homeless – accounting for 43 per cent of all people who are homeless.

The headline figure 5 years ago was 296 families, but the comparable figure would be much lower, as the 2011 data included formerly homeless households in long-term supported housing, which have been excluded, with widespread agreement, in 2016.

Focus Ireland pointed out that because of the complexity of the definition of ‘homelessness’, the census report does not provide comparable data on the actual numbers who are homeless, but it does provide invaluable insights into the circumstances of people who are homeless. This should be used to better understand what is happening, why it is happening to those particular people and how it can be stopped.

In a statement, Focus Ireland Director of Advocacy Mike Allen said: “This census data also demolishes many of the myths that people have about ‘the homeless’. It shows that people who are homeless look very much like everyone else in the population. This demonstrates the extent to which homelessness is linked to the wider housing crisis that impacts on all sections of society.”

The census figures show that people who are homeless tend to be younger than the overall population (average 31 year of age, compared with 37 for the general population), they are quite likely to be at work; and they are of similar nationality to the general population (14 per cent non-Irish nationals compared with 11.6 per cent in the general population, with the largest non-Irish group being UK nationals. Experience would suggest that many of these people have strong Irish connections).

Mr Allen added: “The report also shows the damaging circumstances that people who are homeless are forced to endure, with 62 per cent saying their health was good compared with 87 per cent of the total population.”

Focus Ireland also drew attention to the growth in the numbers of Travellers who are homeless, with the numbers rising from 163 to 517 over the five years. Focus Ireland paid tribute to the CSO for their hard work and persistence in developing this very challenging module of the census. The work of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive Research team was also crucial in ensuring that the families that were homeless and living in hotels were covered by the census.

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