December Drop in Family Homelessness Welcome

Focus Ireland has said that it is positive that new Government figures issued today show an 8% drop in the number of families homeless in Ireland.

However, the charity warned that the overall annual figures for 2017 show a 17% increase in family homelessness in the last year.  The figures rose from 1205 families in Dec 2016 to 1408 last month.  There was also a shocking 23% increase in the number of children homeless from 2505 children to 3079 during this same period.

Commenting on the figures Focus Ireland Advocacy Director Mike Allen said: “Any drop in the numbers is good news as it means less families and children suffering the trauma of being homeless. However, while we don’t want to be negative we do have to be realistic and the figures clearly show that there was a 17% rise in the numbers of families homeless last year. Last year was the worst year for homelessness in the history of the state. More men, women and children experienced homelessness than ever before in our history, and they experienced it for longer.”

He added: “There is always a seasonal drop in the number becoming homeless every December and then a spike in the numbers come January.  This is due to a number of reasons such as extended family taking people in for Christmas but the situation is not sustainable and we regrettably expect to see a return to the rising pattern in January as we do each year at this time. ”

Focus Ireland said that its own figures for the numbers of families becoming newly homeless each month in Dublin showed a similar pattern – as 63 families became newly homeless in Dublin in December.  While this monthly total was lower than recent months, it was the was still the highest December figure that has ever been recorded.

Mr. Allen said: “The overall trend in the last year records a 17% increase in family homelessness in Ireland and we believe that this shows that the Government strategy is failing to tackle the deepening crisis.”

He added: “These figures clearly show that the Government Rebuilding Ireland strategy is failing to get to grips with the crisis.  Focus Ireland firmly believes that the Government must act to take the decisions it has shied away from for several years. This includes actively building social housing, taxing those who hoard building land and protecting the rights of tenants facing eviction.”

Focus Ireland also challenged the Government’s repeated claims that it is doing all it can to tackle homelessness.  The housing charity said it could be doing more and criticised the Government for voting down the so-called Focus Ireland anti-homelessness amendment late last year which called for an end to evictions of tenants in buy-to-let properties that were being sold or repossessed.

Focus Ireland said if this amendment had been passed in Dec last year it would have prevented at least 250 families and over 500 children from becoming homeless last year.  The charity said the Government must stop trying to spin its way out of this crisis and take the action that it has the power to do in the morning and bring in this anti homelessness amendment.

Mr. Allen said: “The Governments logic for refusing to bring in the Focus Ireland Amendment is that it must balance tenants’ rights with property rights.  We strongly believe this holds no water as how can it be balancing rights when a family or individual paying their rent every week – with a tenancy – can be forced out on the street if the property is being sold or repossessed? It is not “balancing rights” it is clearly putting property rights ahead of the rights of tenants.”

He concluded: “I would still always highlight that here is much good work being done by the State, Local authorities and NGO’s such as Focus Ireland and without this the current crisis would be so much worse.  But more needs to be done to keep people in their homes and prevent them from becoming homeless in the first place.  The Government needs to move from managing rising homelessness towards ending it and must take the decisions required to do this.”

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