Focus Ireland says the Taoiseach is failing to show the leadership needed to help end family homelessness crisis
Focus Ireland has today called on the Taoiseach to show the leadership required to tackle the spiraling crisis of family homelessness. It comes as at least five families were forced to sleep rough in July – one family living in a tent and one other family with three children were found sleeping rough last night after the homeless central placement unit failed to accommodate them – despite repeated requests by Focus Ireland’s support staff.
The family was forced to spend the night in the offices of Inner City Helping Homeless after the support group were contacted as a result of Focus Ireland staff sending out a plea to all services to help when hours of work by the charity had failed to secure accommodation for them from the Central Placement Service.
Focus Ireland staff are working with the family again today to try and get them placed for tonight, and have secured commitments from the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive that a solution for this family will be found.
Focus Ireland said that these latest events bring the human reality to the latest DOE (Department of the Environment) statistics which show a shocking 55% rise in the number of families homeless in Dublin since January.
The charity said that the family homeless crisis is getting out of control and must now be responded to as a national emergency by the Government. The charity also warned that this crisis is spreading around the country with families struggling in emergency accommodation nationwide in counties including Cork, Limerick and Kilkenny due to the growing number of people becoming homeless.
Focus Ireland warned that even these new figures don’t reflect the full scale of the crisis as many families who have been assessed as homeless have been refused emergency accommodation by hard pressed local authorities as it is all full.
Focus Ireland Director of Advocacy Mike Allen said: “The family homeless crisis is getting out of control and must now be treated as a national emergency. The Government needs to send a clear directive to all local authorities that where a family is assessed as being homeless they must be found emergency accommodation for the night. The Government needs to fund the costs arising from this separately from the annual homelessness budget. Let us be crystal clear here. We are talking about fathers and mothers being left sleeping in cars with their children or even on a bench on the street. We do all we can to prevent this but I am sure anyone would agree this situation is not only untenable it is also totally unacceptable.”
Focus Ireland is the lead agency working to support families who are homeless in Dublin and the charity said its staff are increasingly finding cases where families who have been accessed as homeless can’t get emergency accommodation as there is none available. In a number of other cases families have been turned away as the credit card used by Dublin City Council homeless services to pay for the accommodation has been maxed out.
The joint street team operated by Focus Ireland and the Peter McVery Trust has reported that 17 homeless families were found at risk of sleeping rough in July alone in Dublin. The charity was able to secure accommodation for most of these rough sleepers working with DCC’s central placement unit, but 5 families were verified as having to sleep rough for at least one night as they could not be accommodated. Four of these families slept in their cars while one family had no alternative but to sleep in a tent.
The charity said the Government is fully aware of the crisis as it has written to both Minister Alan Kelly and the Taoiseach calling for a Ministerial directive which would ensure no family accessed as homeless could be turned away without a bed for the night. Focus Ireland said it is also running a campaign calling for the Taoiseach to show leadership on this issue and for the Ministerial Directive to be part of a twin-track response which includes rent certainty and a rise in rent supplement payments. The charity said the Government’s continued refusal to raise rent supplement – and deliver on its promises of Rent Certainty – is directly forcing more families into homelessness
Mr. Allen said: “Nearly 5,000 members of the public have signed up to our campaign and written to the Taoiseach in the last two months calling for action and we haven’t even got a reply as yet except for a standard acknowledgement. It is not good enough and shows that this situation is not a priority for the Taoiseach. He clearly knows what is happening and he also clearly hasn’t taken the action required to ensure the Minister responsible for housing has the full resources required to deal with this growing crisis.”
He added: “The Taoiseach said on Sunday that families having to stay in hotel rooms is unacceptable. The truth is that now some families can’t even get a hotel room for the night and have to sleep rough. This is also a serious child welfare issue as there are now over 1,300 children and their families in B&Bs and hotel rooms across Dublin. The very idea that a number of children have had to sleep rough in our capital city is a disgrace and a failure by the Government. The Taoiseach also said that: “homelessness always rears its head from September to Christmas.”
“Focus Ireland would highlight to Enda Kenny that families and single people are homeless all year round and this crisis needs urgent action from the Taoiseach and his government. They must now accept the Government’s policy to refuse to raise rent supplement has played a massive role in creating the current homeless crisis.”
Focus Ireland takes no pleasure is having warned of this current family homeless crisis 3 years ago in our Pre-budget Submission which highlighted that many families were then at a dangerous tipping point between home and homelessness. At that time in 2012, an average of 8 families were becoming homeless in Dublin each month. This has now shot up to an average of 60 families presenting as homeless to Focus Ireland family services in Dublin every month so far this year.
Focus Ireland research in 2012, clearly showed that inadequate rent supplement payments was causing families and single people to become homeless. However, the Government did not increase rent supplement at that time – or since then – and we believe this has been the main factor in the explosion of the family homeless crisis in the last 3 years.
Focus Ireland said the homeless crisis can be solved if it is made a true priority by the Government. Focus Ireland said it is working hard with DRHE and DCC and working together we have managed to move families out of homelessness into secure accommodation but with at least 60 more families becoming homeless every month the housing isn’t there for them.
FAMILY HOMELESSNESS – FACTS & FIGURES
- A 55% rise in the number of families who are homeless in Ireland in the first 6 months of 2015.
- A total of 620 families were homeless in June of this year nationwide. This is up from 401 in January.
- Figures also show a worrying rise in the number of children homeless within these families.
- In January 865 children homeless (within 401 families)
- By June this had shot up by over 50% to 1,318 children (within 620 families)
- Breakdown of figures:
- 531 families with 1122 children are homeless in Dublin.
- 89 families with 196 children are homeless across the rest of the country.
- More than one in four people using homeless services is a child.Many of the families and children who are homeless are squeezed into hotel rooms – this can be up to 5 or 6 people in one room, with nowhere to cook or for children to even play. This impacts on the mental and physical well-being of both parents and children. Problems that sadly frequently arise include: Stress, depression, poor diet, developmental issues for children and impact on education and transport to school.
- Media Enquiries to Michelle Moran 086 468 0442 / 01 881 5964 or Roughan McNamara 01 881 59 00 / 086 85 15 117
- Focus Ireland would stress that being homeless causes terrible damage to families and children every day and it also is building up more problems for the future. It is a sad reality that – without action now – some of the next generation of children in care, early school leavers, unemployment, people with addiction and/or mental health problems will arise from the conditions these families are forced to live in. You can read here of children speaking themselves about how being homeless with their families impacts on them
- Impact on children and families: