The number of people in emergency accommodation across the country has exceeded 10,000 for the first time in two years.

New figures released today by the Department of Housing show there were 10,049 people in emergency accommodation during the week of 18 to 24 April 2022.

This includes 7,105 adults and 2,944 children.

The number of families accessing emergency accommodation during this period was 1,308.

The figure is an increase of 224 people compared to March when 9,825 individuals were homeless.

Earlier, Director of advocacy with Focus Ireland Mike Allen said that the "real progress" that was made during the pandemic to reduce the level of homelessness is being "so quickly eroded".

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Mr Allen said: "We've seen the numbers start to go up since the middle of last year, when we see all our services across the country, we're seeing more and more people coming in.

"People are getting evicted from properties either because the landlord is selling up, or because they've fallen behind in their rent because of the HAP (Housing Assistant Payment)."

Mr Allen said that while the long-term solution is to build more homes, it is "absolutely crucial" that more is done in the short term to keep people in their homes and prevent them from becoming homeless.

"The long term-solution is build more homes. We all know that while we're waiting for that, let's not destroy people's lives," he said.

Charities that work in homelessness say the increase in the number of single adults is of particular concern.

They are calling for the Housing Assistance Payment to be reviewed and increased as well as the supply of housing to be addressed more urgently.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Pat Greene, head of policy and volunteering at Dublin Simon Community, said they once again find themselves "sounding the alarm on a situation that is now overwhelming the system".

In a statement, Mr Greene said their outreach teams on the streets are now meeting an increasing number of women who need access to safe female accommodation, adding that availability "cannot keep up with demand".

"At this point, there is not only an urgent need to stem the flow into and provide move-on options out of homelessness, but the emergency accommodation system itself is bursting at the seams and staff are working at and beyond capacity to meet the growing demand for services," Mr Greene said.

"The detrimental effects of long-term stays in emergency accommodation on mental and physical health are well documented.

"People are being failed by the system and as a result of that failure will need even more support in the future – it is a vicious circle with no clear exit point."

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Wayne Stanley, national spokesperson and head of policy and communications with the Simon Communities of Ireland, said that while he accepts that housing is a priority issue for the Government, it needs to be "the priority".

He told RTÉ News Six One that a crisis response is needed.

"The lesson of the pandemic is that a crisis needs a crisis response and what we're seeing at the moment is that homelessness is a priority for the Government," Mr Stanley said.

"There's no question about that, but it's a competing priority, what we need is it to be the priority."

He pointed to vacant properties as one way to tackle the problem.

"We need to see action taken that mirrors what we did during Covid, which is attacking, where we can, the stock of housing that is there.

"There are over 90,000 vacant properties in Ireland, we can go and capture some of those and make sure they get used for the people in the most dire housing need."

Mr Stanley said that not all of those vacant properties could be made available, but if just 10% were utilised it would deal with the homelessness crisis.

In a statement prior to the release of the figures, the Department of Housing said the continuing increase in the numbers accessing emergency accommodation is a serious concern.

It said the Government, local authorities and others are making every effort to reduce homelessness and are backed by a budget of €190m in 2022.

It said that Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien has consistently said that addressing homelessness is a priority for this Government.

It also said that last year, on behalf of Government, he signed the Lisbon Declaration which is a European declaration to end homelessness by 2030.

The statement said that next week, Ireland will hold the FEANSTA conference 2022 - Towards a Vision for Ending Homelessness - and it will bring together key stakeholders from across Europe who are working to this aim.

The key to solving our homeless crisis is the delivery of new social housing and boosting overall supply, it said.

The department said that the Government is investing significantly in social and affordable housing, with a record €4 billion allocated for current and capital investment in housing this year alone.

It said funding is in place to deliver 11,800 social homes, including 9,000 new build homes, building on the progress made last year when 9,183 new social homes were provided, a 17% increase on 2020.

Additional reporting Laura Hogan