As homeless numbers rise as lockdown eases Focus Ireland says new Government strategy must deliver policy shift required to end crisis & fix Ireland’s broken housing system
Figures published today by the Department of Housing show the number of people who are homeless in April rose by 22 to 8,082 compared to 8,060 in the previous month. There was also a rise in the number of families homeless from 913 to 925 and the number of children who are homeless increased by 27 to 2,193.
The charity welcomed the public and political debate in relation to cuckoo funds, first-time buyers and rent increases, but warned against treating the housing and homeless crisis as a series of unrelated crises requiring panic reactions. Focus Ireland believes a joined-up, consistent approach is required which recognizes that families and individuals who are homeless are suffering the worst impact of this crisis and need to be at the heart of the solution.
Focus Ireland CEO Pat Dennigan said “The Irish Housing system is dysfunctional for everyone at the moment. People are suffering from rocketing rents and a lack of security in the private rented sector, while buying their own home is a distant dream for a growing number in our society. Building enough social housing is core to meeting everyone’s housing needs at it will have the knock-on impact of freeing up much accommodation in the rental market. Local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies need to shift away from acquiring homes just when they come on the market and towards getting them constructed in the first place. There must be urgent but integrated Government action to construct more social housing, affordable rental and affordable homes for home ownership. Setting each sector against the others will not deliver positive outcomes.”
Focus Ireland is also deeply concerned that the number of families entering homelessness for the month of April has increased. More families becoming homeless in a month is always appalling and traumatic, but for it to happen at a time when most of them will be unvaccinated and covid restrictions are still in place is also alarming from a public health perspective. The decision of the Government to lift eviction protections for families before the pandemic is over is both heartless and highly risky. The charity has recently launched a new #FocusOnFamilies campaign which is calling for the Government to develop a specific strategy to tackle family homelessness.
Mr Dennigan adds: “Family homelessness remains at totally unacceptable levels, and we must make sure that the Government’s new ‘Housing for All’ strategy, due to be published this summer, at last genuinely recognises the unique needs of families who are homeless and their children – and includes real measures to address them. The number of families homeless of under 1,000 is more than four times the level it was in 2014, when the then Minister for Housing, Jan O’Sullivan declared it an ‘emergency crisis.”
Focus Ireland added that the temporary Covid-19 eviction ban has reduced the constant flow of families becoming homeless every month. However, the Government has now decided not to lift the ban and the charity fears it will continue to see a sharp rise in the number of families losing their homes due to a new round of evictions. The charity believes the eviction moratorium should be reintroduced for 6 months while lockdown restrictions are gradually relaxed.
Focus Ireland CEO Pat Dennigan said: “The decision to prioritise the desires of landlords rather than the risk to families is premature and contradicts all the ‘abundance of caution’ advice which is being applied in every other area. The Government’s continued insistence that the eviction ban is still in place may cause a lot of confusion – while a limited number of tenants who are in arrears due to Covid-19 are still protected, tenants with valid leases who are up to date with their rent can now be evicted through no fault of their own if their landlord wants to sell.”
Meanwhile, there are 4,087 adults homeless in Dublin according to the latest figures from the Department of Housing. Outside the capital there are 395 homeless adults in Cork, 222 in Limerick and 57 in Waterford.
People can show their support for the #FocusOnFamilies campaign by contacting their local TDs on the issue through its campaign page http://bit.ly/Focusonfamilies .
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