Homelessness and housing charity the Peter McVerry Trust has called on the Department of the Environment to bring forward emergency legislation to freeze rents.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Father Peter McVerry said that there has been a crisis in homelessness for some time but the current situation was "beyond crisis."

"In January this year there were 410 families in emergency accommodation, in July there were 659 families in emergency accommodation, the numbers are going up and up and up," he said.

"And I would describe the situation...it's like a boat that's drifting, it's drifting towards the rocks and there doesn't seem to be any engine that's trying to drift it away from the rocks and there doesn't seem to be anybody in charge."

Fr McVerry said the primary cause of homelessness was the increase in rents in the private sector but a secondary cause was the repossession of homes by banks, leading to tenants losing their homes.

He said freezing rents was one measure that could be taken but others also needed to implemented.

"It's already too late for so many families to freeze rents and anyway it'll have to pass through legislation.

“It's one measure, I think there are others ... we have to increase the rent supplement, there's no question about it," he said.

"The rents nationwide in the last three and a half years have gone up by an average of €50 per week, in Dublin they've gone up by €90 per week on average and the rent supplement has been reduced by 28%, there is just no correlation now between the rent supplement and the rents that are being demanded."

Fr McVerry also said he had never met Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly to discuss the homelessness crisis.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the minister said: "Minister Alan Kelly has met the McVerry Trust on two occasions and Fr Peter wasn't there but the opportunity to meet was there.

"Minister Kelly has promised a package on rent certainty and will bring his proposals to Government asap."