—–The charity said that “1 child became homeless every 3.5 hours in Dublin in January.” ———

Focus Ireland has said that the new figures issued today which report a new record total of 9104 people homeless in January show the Government is dramatically failing to do enough to ease the crisis.

The news figures show a shocking rise of 6% in one month alone from 8,587 in Dec to 9,104 in Jan 2018.

The new figures from the Department of the Environment show that a shocking 3267 of the number homeless are children.

Focus Ireland said the situation would be much worse without the work of the charity as it helped over 700 families to escape homelessness last year, in partnership with the State.  However, these new figures show that the crisis continues to deepen despite this good work being done on the front line by state agencies and NGO’s as the Government continues to shy away from tackling the deeper issues which are driving more and more people into homelessness.

Focus Ireland Director of Advocacy Mike Allen said: “We are deeply concerned by the government’s continued emphasis on the delivery of Hubs to tackle this human crisis of family homelessness.  The Government admits that Hubs are only a ‘first response’ but there is still no sign of them delivering a second, substantive response which is adequate to the crisis we are facing.”

“Families need homes not more hubs, and the Government is neither delivering new homes nor protecting families in the existing homes they have. Focus Ireland research shows that even a short period of homelessness often has a very negative impact on families – and their children. With one-in-three of the families who are homeless now in emergency accommodations for over 12 months the Government needs to urgently rethink its approach.”

“The Government has no strategy to tackle family homelessness; all it has is an outdated promise in Rebuilding Ireland and a stack of press statements. We urgently need a coherent, joined up and ambitious strategy to tackle this issue.”

He added: “Such a strategy would require the Government to take the decisions it has shied away from for several years. This includes actively building social housing, ensuring that bank restructuring does not come at the cost of mass homelessness, taxing those who hoard building land and protecting the rights of tenants facing eviction.”

Focus Ireland also called for immediate action by the Government to protect tenants in the Buy-To-Let properties that are to be sold off as part of the 20,000 loans by the 75% State owned Permanent TSB to Vulture Funds.   Mr. Allen said: “It is wrong that the State is allowing PTSB to sell off these mortgages on the cheap to Vulture Funds for them to make an easy killing on.

The Government needs to have a joined up policy on this. The Government owns 75% of PTSB on the citizen’s behalf and has final say on appointments to the Board of the bank. The loan books which will be sold to vulture funds will include thousands of buy-to-let mortgages, leaving the tenants in those homes totally unprotected from eviction by the vulture funds as they attempt to make a quick return. The Government knows this but totally fails to take any action to protect the vulnerable people involved.”

Mr. Allen said: “This incoherent approach to the crisis will simply transfer the problem from the balance sheets of the banks to the innocent families who have conscientiously paid their rent. Focus Ireland has long argued that government legislation to protect Irish homes from the threat posed by Vulture Funds is needed and it is required sooner rather than later if we are to avoid an avalanche of repossessions once this PTSB sale happens.”

Meanwhile, Focus Ireland warned that one child became homeless every three & a half hours last month as its figures report that 109 families with 218 children became newly homeless in Dublin in January. This is the second highest number of newly homeless families ever recorded (the highest was 121 families in January 2015). Focus Ireland is the lead agency supporting these families through its family team services funded by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive. The average number of families becoming newly homeless in Dublin in 2017 was 81, compared with 75 in 2016 and 65 in 2015.

Mr Allen concluded: “I would still always highlight that an enormous amount of good work being done on the front-line by the State, Local authorities and NGO’s such as Focus Ireland and without this the current crisis would be so much worse.  Last year we managed to slow down the overall growth in family homelessness in Dublin through an enormous effort by front-line staff to find new homes to rent – but with the ever increasing number of families becoming homeless, it is hard to see that this can be sustained.”

“Much more needs to be done to keep people in their homes and prevent them from becoming homeless in the first place. This can’t all be achieved on the front-line; we need the Government to tackle the underlying problems that are forcing people into homelessness.  The Government needs to move from managing rising homelessness towards ending it and must take the decisions required to do this.”

Media contact: Roughan Mac Namara – 086 85 15 117 or Alan Neary – 086 468 0442

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