Focus Ireland is warning of a deepening youth homelessness crisis as figures show the number of 18 to 24-year-olds who are homeless has shot up by 78% in the past three years.

Figures from the Department of Housing reported that 776 young people were homeless and in emergency accommodation in the week 20-26 February.

The most recent figures show that young people aged 18 to 24 now make up some 10% of the record number of 7,421 people who are currently homeless in Ireland.

Focus Ireland Director of Advocacy Mike Allen said: "We know that young people aged 18-24 outside of families have really been hit hard by the reduced rate of social welfare available to them.

"When a young person falls into the nightmare that is homelessness, there's always an underlying reason. Not getting accommodation or support upon leaving State care, family problems, mental health challenges and/or purely economic pressures and unemployment.''

He added: "It is wrong that young people are often left to fend for themselves in these situations,

"Focus Ireland  - and others - are providing many vital services in co-operation with the State and local authorities but a lot more needs to be done as these young people are in danger of becoming the forgotten homeless if we don't have more action.''

Focus Ireland said it is moving to address the problem through an innovative approach to target vulnerable people in the 18 to 24 age group.

Its 'Housing First for Youth' service provides young people with housing as quickly as possible and then intensive and targeted, person-centred supports including healthcare, counselling, education, training, financial advice and more.