FOCUS IRELAND CALLS FOR MORATORIUM ON EVICTIONS AS PART OF GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO COVID-19
Charity said this will prevent more people becoming homeless during this time of national emergency
Focus Ireland called on the Government today to put in place a moratorium on evictions as part of its reaction to the threat of Covid-19 to help prevent more people from becoming homeless at this time.
The housing and homelessness charity wrote to the Taoiseach to make this call while also outlining a number of other vital actions to be taken to protect the most vulnerable during this unprecedented national emergency.
People who are homeless are among the vulnerable population as they have limited living space and limited options for self-isolation and social distancing. Many also face additional risk due to long term health conditions and/or disability.
Focus Ireland Director of Advocacy Mike Allen said: “We are working closely with other organisations and with the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE), local authorities, Tusla and the HSE to keep essential services open and continue to protect people who are homeless and those at risk. However, the continued flow of families and individual into homelessness presents very real challenges to us. “
“In line with DRHE recommendations, we are advising families who become homeless to contact their local authorities by e-mail or phone. While this is good practice for limiting the spread of the virus it poses real challenges for vulnerable families who will be very worried about becoming homeless in the middle of this health crisis.”
Focus Ireland said there are two immediate actions which must be included as part of the package of Government measures due to go to the Oireachtas when it meets in the near future.
Firstly, there are a significant number of households who will become homeless over the coming weeks because they have a received a Notice of Termination with a now imminent end date. Many of these terminations are where the landlord wishes to sell the property or move a family member into the property.
Mr. Allen said: “Focus Ireland research indicates that up to 40 families become homeless every month as a result of notice of termination on these grounds – and there is evidence that there is a similar pattern across the country. These evictions are a terrifying prospect for these families and a terrible additional strain on homeless services which are already under extreme stress.”
“The scale of the COVID-19 crisis justifies a moratorium on such Section 34 evictions until the public health crisis is resolved. Focus Ireland has strongly urged the Taoiseach and the Government to bring legislation to give effect to this moratorium to the Oireachtas when it next meets.”
Meanwhile, Focus Ireland also highlighted the risk faced by people living in private rented accommodation who are unable to work due to illness or the requirement of self-isolation. There will also be many more families and individuals at risk in the private rented sector due to the impact of temporary business closures and measures such as reduced working hours during this period.
Mr Allen said: “Many such households are paying a very large proportion of their income to keep a roof over their heads, and any loss of income will cause considerable distress and increase the risk of losing their homes. There has been considerable coverage of the challenges facing mortgage holders in these circumstances, and we welcome the openness of many mortgage providers to apply payment ‘holidays’ or similar arrangements. However, there has been no discussion of the situation of renters, who are often in much more precarious situations.”
Focus Ireland has called for the immediate availability of SWA Rent Supplement to such people as this would considerably reduce the anxiety and risk. The charity said that along with the legislative and regulatory measures required to deliver such relief, there should be a strong information campaign to make workers in the private rented sector aware of the scheme and how to avail of it. A circular to Community Welfare Officers concerning the importance of ready access to this support would be an important part of the package.
Meanwhile, Focus Ireland services are currently operating as normal and precautionary measures are in place to limit the risk of infection. These measures include limiting face-to-face contact with vulnerable customers/tenants, while continuing to ensure they get full support. Focus Ireland is monitoring the COVID-19 situation very closely and is following the public health advice issued by the HSE and the Government.
Our management team is meeting daily to review the situation and keeping in regular contact with the HSE, Dublin Region Homeless Executive, local authorities and all other relevant state bodies and partner organisations. Focus Ireland, in partnership with the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, is setting aside a number of housing units in case people that we support are advised that they need to self-isolate.