The number of homeless people in Ireland could reach 10,000 by the middle of next year if the low level of government activity continues, charities have warned.
Spokeswoman for the the Simon Community, Niamh Randall, said the homeless crisis “has been ongoing for two to three years. We’ve been warning that the crisis was waiting to happen.
“Everything is happening at a slow pace. Rapid build homes are taking 18 months, that’s just not rapid,” she said.
Figures published this month revealed 7,941 homeless people - 5,046 adults and 2,895 children - were in emergency accommodation in June, a 30 per cent increase on the same time last year.
This week the Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said that the Fine Gael-led government is seeking measures to “get a proper handle” on the crisis, but admitted he did not know what to do.
He said, “We have a real crisis. We are working hard to find solutions. We are looking for new measures so we can get a proper handle on it. The figures are going the wrong way.”
Ms Randall welcomed the acknowledgement that the homeless and housing situation is now a crisis. She told Irish radio that the Minister’s plans for vacant homes were long overdue but were not enough.
“Any plan needs to be ambitious, we can’t wait any longer. We’ve been waiting too long, action has been too slow.”
Almost one in five homeless people are in employment, according to the latest figures. An analysis shows that 27 per cent of homeless are children, and females account for 42 per cent of the total. The Dublin region accounts for 73 per cent of those who are experiencing homelessness.
Long-time homelessness campaigner Fr Peter McVerry has called for a state of emergency to be declared.
“If we had foot and mouth disease in the morning, the Taoiseach would call an emergency,” he said.
“He would have every single department sitting around the table trying to address this problem and would ensure that within weeks the problem would be solved.
“We need to get every department and every agency sitting around a table to seriously address this problem.”
The number of homeless children in the country has nearly trebled over the past two years - and Fr McVerry warned that the public is becoming increasingly desensitised to the issue.
“You know in 2015 the number of homeless children reached 1,000 and there was an outcry,” he said. “The government said this is intolerable, we have got to do something.”
He suggested the current government is “ideologically incapable” of addressing the crisis, adding that he has no faith in them.
“In early 2016, the number of homeless children reached 2,000 - there was no outcry.
“We are going to reach 3,000 probably next month but we have gotten so used to having thousands of homeless children that is barely going to register unfortunately.”