Number Of Homeless Increase Housing Minister ‘concerned’ after number of elderly homeless rises by over 100% in three years
The number of people aged over 65 seeking access to emergency accommodation has grown by over 100% in the past three years
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has admitted that he is ‘concerned’ by the trend.
And an Opposition TD is warning that the increase in elderly homeless due to rising rents could echo the jump in the number of homeless children in the past number of years.
The October monthly homelessness report, which details households accessing emergency accommodation around the country, shows 154 homeless adults were aged 65 or over.
Analysis by Extra.ie shows that this marks an increase of just over 102% when compared with the same month in 2016, when 76 people aged 65 or over were listed in October of that year.
But the figures remain a cause of concern. Minister Murphy was challenged about this unwelcome increase at an Oireachtas committee meeting last week by Fianna Fail TD Pat Casey, who asked: ‘Is there something we should be beginning to be slightly concerned about in relation to the over 65s?’
Mr Casey also told the Housing Committee that data shows there has also been a slight increase to the number of social housing applicants aged over 60.
Mr Casey, a Wicklow TD, told Extra.ie he is now fearful the number of vulnerable elderly people who are homeless could continue to rise. The overall number of homeless people in the country, including children, is now over 10,500, and the total number of homeless adults recorded in the October report was 6,688. This means those aged over 65 represent just over 2% of the total for adults.
While Mr Casey acknowledged these figures for over 65s are low, he pointed to the fact they ‘are increasing a significant percentage year on year’. He added: ‘And that’s the way the homeless children started. And then it just sort of escalated from there.’
He said that while the elderly homeless figures have been relatively low, and tended to be overlooked, the situation has evolved in recent months.
He added: ‘We had been getting stories saying that elderly people are now going to become the new homeless, because anybody who is renting at the moment who reaches pension age are going to have severe difficulties in paying the current rents that are being asked — specifically in Dublin. So now we are beginning to actually see this coming through in the figures.’
The TD said he fears if this number ‘keeps going up every year by 10 or 15%, it won’t be long reaching the same figure we have in child homelessness’.
Speaking last week, Mr Casey said: ‘When we look back at this period, of this Dail and previous Dails, we will look at this as a decade of neglect of the children of Ireland and at the heart of that neglect is homelessness.’
Acknowledging the fact that the minister said at the committee last week that he was aware of this trend, Mr Casey told Extra.ie: ‘We have to start building accommodation for elderly people in mind.
‘So up to now as a State, realistically, we have built a three-bed standard house for the standard family, and we haven’t been building the one-bedroom apartment or the two-bed house which would be more suitable for older people. So we are going to have to start doing that at a scale now that we haven’t done before.’
He said the over-65s cohort are ‘private individuals who are not in social housing, so they are in private rented accommodation, and at the current market rent, when they hit 65 and they are just on a pension, they cannot afford that rent’.
‘And this is where I think part of that problem is, it’s probably not the whole problem, but it is a significant part of it,’ he said.
‘And that will only get worse, as we equally know over the last 15 to 20 years, home ownership is reducing so the middle-income family are renting more and more, and the more the rents go up the more this problem will happen.’ Mr Casey’s concerns over the rise in elderly homeless were echoed by Alone.
The chief executive of the charity, Sean Moynihan, said that homeless hubs just for over-65s are likely in the future unless swift action is taken.
He told The Irish Times: ‘We believe that unless urgent action is taken, the housing crisis for older people will get worse in the years to come, as more and more of us rent for longer rather than buying property. Will we see homeless hubs for older people in the years to come?
‘We’re an ageing population. With the rising cost of rent, the danger is in five years’ time we will end up with homeless hubs for older people.’
A spokesman for Minister Murphy last night said: ‘Housing Options For Our Ageing Population sets out 40 actions which we intend to progress to ensure that older people are supported to age in place.
‘The policy provides a framework to facilitate and promote a variety of housing options, including housing with care/supported housing, for older people. An Implementation Group is progressing the actions in the plan and will shortly submit its first report to Minister [of State for Housing Damien] English and Minister [of State for Older People Jim] Daly.
‘The Department [of Housing] is working closely with the Department of Health to ensure older people are supported, whether through the provision of grants to adapt their own homes under the Housing Adaptation Grant, or to move to specifically adapted housing through supporting projects with funding under the Capital Assistance Scheme.’