Focus Ireland launches it’s annual report 2014
The charity helped over 11,500 people who were homeless or at risk of losing their homes last year compared to 10,000 in 2013 and 8,000 in 2012.
The annual report was launched at Buswells Hotel in Dublin by Focus Ireland Life President, Sr. Stanislaus Kennedy who founded the charity 30 years ago this month.
Focus Ireland CEO Ashley Balbirnie said: “There has been a constant rise in demand in recent years with a staggering 44% increase in the numbers Focus Ireland worked with between 2012 and last year. This trend is continuing this year as our services have already supported over 8,000 people in the first 6 months around the country.”
Also speaking at the event Sr. Stan said that while good work is being done sadly things are getting worse. She said: “ Last year Focus Ireland helped 360 households to secure a home – or prevented them from losing one and this is really positive. However, at the same time we must not shy away from highlighting that homelessness has now deepened from a crisis situation to a national emergency.”
She said: “The Government must now accept that some of its policy decisions are directly forcing people into homelessness. In 2012 we warned in our Pre-Budget Submission that many families were at a tipping point between home and homelessness as rent supplement payments were not matching rising rents.”
“At this time in 2012 a total of 8 families a month were becoming homeless in Dublin. Focus Ireland’s warnings were not listened to by the Government and sadly there has been a staggering rise in family homelessness in the last 3 years. This year an average of 70 families are becoming homeless every month in Dublin alone and the problem is also developing around the country.”
Sr. Stan added: “The fact is that the government could, with the stroke of a pen take action to prevent many families becoming homeless this very month by increasing the rent supplement. What is often forgotten is that these families do not just appear out of thin air into homelessness. They are all in homes now as I speak but yet without action at least 70 more families will lose their homes this month and be homeless. “
Focus Ireland is also calling on the Government to urgently deliver on its promise of rent certainty and to also bring in tax changes for residential landlords to help increase the number of rental properties on the market.
Focus Ireland highlighted a number of specific actions the charity is calling for to tackle the immediate emergency situation and to also deliver long-term solutions by improving access to affordable accommodation through social housing and the private rented market.
Focus Ireland CEO Ashley Balbirnie said: “We all know addressing homelessness and housing need is a complex area as the policy and services response required cover such a vast range of issues. However, what is clear is that there are some actions that could be taken very quickly to cut the rising numbers becoming homeless every day.”
He said: “There is rightly a lot of focus and debate on the emergency situation but what we must not lose sight of is the fact that to tackle any emergency you must also do all you can to cut the numbers who end up in that situation. This would take massive pressure off a homeless services emergency accommodation system that is struggling to cope. It would also free up resources which could be directed to increase prevention measures which is key to ending homelessness.”
FOCUS IRELAND EMERGENCY ACTIONS THAT CAN BE MADE ON BUDGET DAY TO EASE THE CRISIS
Raise rent supplement rates to match market rents to keep families in their homes and cut the record number of households becoming homeless every month.
Deliver rent certainty for tenants and take action in the Budget to bring in tax changes for residential landlords as any system must work for landlords and tenants alike.
LONGER TERM SOLUTIONS TO IMPROVE ACCESS TO HOUSING
Focus Ireland is seeking a commitment to the provision a minimum average of 7,000 new social housing units a year over the 5 year term of the next government.
Focus Ireland acknowledge that in this area the Government has published and is committed to implementing the Social Housing Strategy 2020 with an ‘upfront exchequer commitment’ of €1.5 billion but we now need to see bricks and mortar being delivered from that strategy.
The charity also maintains that any plan for modular housing must be implemented carefully, with regard to the location of potential sites, and quickly, given the scale of the current crisis.
If the purpose of modular housing is to provide suitable accommodation as quickly as possible, initiatives must not be unduly delayed by planning regulations.
Media Contact: Roughan Mac Namara: Ph: 086 85 15 117