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Surge in emergency-accommodation queries – MLRC
Aoife Kelly-Desmond

03 Oct 2023 / justice Print

Surge in emergency-accommodation queries – MLRC

There was a surge in queries seeking help with access to emergency homeless accommodation last year, according to the annual report of Mercy Law Resource Centre (MLRC).

The independent law centre provides free advice and representation to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Its 2022 report shows that there was a 10% increase in new requests for legal assistance compared with 2021.

The number of clients seeking help with emergency accommodation, however, jumped by 250% – from 15 in 2021 to 54 last year.

More cases outside Dublin

MLRC also reports a notable shift in the geographic spread of its work, with half of cases in 2022 coming from outside Dublin – up from just one-third in 2021. This centre believes that this may reflect rising levels of rural homelessness.

It is calling on the Government to ensure that local authorities have enough resources to be able to meet the needs of their communities in responding to homelessness, apply fair procedures and uphold their equality and human-rights duties under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014.

The centre’s managing solicitor Aoife Kelly-Desmond described the increase in people looking for help to access emergency accommodation as “worrying”.

She added that, as pressure on the system grew, the organisation had seen “a notable deterioration in the quality and robustness” of decision-making on homeless assessments, “with legal intervention increasingly required to secure access to basic shelter for our clients”.

Kelly-Desmond said that this trend had continued into 2023, and demand for its services had continued to increase.

Local authorities

In the annual report, MLRC expresses its concern at identifying “misapplication of the law” by local authorities in cases where emergency accommodation was refused.

“One common example was clients being refused emergency accommodation supports on the grounds that they did not have an open application for social-housing supports, which is not, in fact, a legal requirement to access homeless supports,” the report states.

“Another common issue concerned members of minority groups with particular legal status in Ireland, such as those with refugee status or visas connected to the family-reunification process for refugees,” MLRC says.

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