538 homeless cases dealt with in 2015
More people are becoming homeless in County Wexford than ever before.
Last year, the County Council dealt with 538 cases of homeless families and individuals, compared with 350 the previous year.
In the past, the local authority handled about 60 cases of homelessness a year, according to senior executive officer for housing and community Liz Hore.
Among the new category of homeless people are former house owners who fall into mortgage arrears and tenants in private rented accommodation who have to leave properties because a landlord is either selling a house or demanding a higher rent which they cannot afford on current Rent Supplement payments.
Homeless people are prioritised by the Council which organises accommodation for them in shelters, bed and breakfasts and private rented accommodation or in local authority housing where available.
Unlike Dublin where some homeless families have been forced to live indefinitely in hotels, the average maximum stay by a homeless person in a B&B in County Wexford before being housed, is 26 days.
In 2013, Wexford County Council spent €17,000 on temporary bed and breakfast accommodation for homeless people. By last year, that figure had risen to €117,000, indicating a rapid growth in the problem.
Homelessness has become such a prevalent problem that Council housing staff organised a voluntary on-call rota over the holiday period last Christmas in order to respond to emergency cases.
'That was the first time we've ever felt there was a need to do that,' said Ms. Hore.
A lack of affordable private rented accommodation is a contributory factor in homelessness, along with increased rents, particularly in Gorey and Wexford town where rates are higher than the maximum available family rent supplement of €575 for a couple and three children.
'It's €800-plus for a three-bedroom house in good condition in the Gorey area,' said Cllr. Malcolm Byrne.
'Looking at the demographic and the numbers likely to be moving into the Gorey area, we may need something of the order of 1300 additional housing units over the next six years,' he said.
The Government's 2013 ban on bedsits as an unsuitable form of accommodation has also led to homelessness among single men and an increase in their numbers on the housing list while the Wexford single rate rent allowance of €375 per month is inadequate in the current market.
Addiction and mental health issues also contribute to homelessness and a Homelessness Action Team chaired by the Council and incorporating the HSE, Focus Ireland, Department of Social Protection, Ozanam House and Wexford Women's Refuge is working to ensure vulnerable people are supported in securing and maintaining accommodation, with two trained employees from Focus Ireland on the payroll of the Council.