THE number of people living homeless in Ireland has risen once again to 10,305 – the highest since records began.
Shocking figures released by the Department of Housing show that last month there were 6,484 adults and 3,821 children living in emergency accomodation across the country – including hotels, B&Bs and state-funded 'family hubs'.
Compared with the previous month, this represents an increase of 41 people – four adults and 37 children – and marks the third consecutive month that a grim new record has been set.
Of the total 10,305 people with no place to call home, the vast majority are in Dublin – with 1,733 families altogether.
Tip of an iceberg?
But campaigners say the new figures are only the tip of the iceberg and the real number of Ireland's homeless may be twice as high as the Department of Housing found.
"The true figure would be closer to 20,000 as we don’t include rough sleepers, families in women's shelters, people in direct provision or people couch-surfing or living with family or friends in these figures," said Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) chief executive Anthony Flynn.
"In the last four days alone there have been two deaths of homeless men in their 30s in Cork.
"We cannot become numb to deaths on our streets and the government's lack of will to provide proper emergency accommodation and build public housing on public lands that has led us to this."
Kerry Anthony, CEO of charity Depaul, said the latest rise in homeless "shows that the issue is not going away any time soon".
She added: "This is the third successive record in as many months which indicates there is still a long road to go before we can firmly get a handle on the issue of homelessness.
"Recently we have seen in some of our emergency accommodations that over 50% of those new to homeless were between the ages of 18–34.
"It is important to point out that this is a sample representing Depaul's emergency services however, for some young adults in our society that means starting your adult life off as homeless."
Responding to the new findings, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said: "The figures for March show a slight increase on February, with four additional adults and 37 additional dependants in emergency accommodation.
"We continue to put considerable efforts in to prevent people from entering emergency accommodation, while also exiting as many families and individuals from homelessness as possible each month."
But Mr Flynn said Minister Murphy and his Department were "directly responsible" for what are now "the worst levels of homelessness in the history of the state".
He added: "The time for talking is over and we need to see the government treat homelessness as the national emergency that it is with an emergency sitting of the Dail."
Last month, a report by children’s ombudsman Dr Niall Muldoon uncovered serious concerns about the mental health of children living in emergency accomodation in Ireland.
Dr Muldoon called for an independent evaluation of family hubs – used mostly as temporary relief for families instead of placing them in hotels and B&Bs alongside homeless adults – which the Government are currently spending over €100 million on.