Focus Ireland Warns that Homelessness Crisis Will Not End Without a Shift in Government Policy as New Figures Show a Record Total of 10,305 Homeless

The figures show an increase of 41 people in one month from Feb to March this year - 37 of whom are children.

Focus Ireland has warned that the deepening homelessness crisis will not be ended without a shift in Government policy as new figures issued today by the Dept of Housing show a new record total of 10,305 people homeless.

The charity stressed that much good work is being done but the crisis will continue without a substantial increase in social housing provision & a move away from a reliance on providing more emergency accommodation & hubs.  The charity said that this urgent need for this policy shift was emphasised by the other new figures issued today which show a 16% rise in the numbers sleeping rough in Dublin since April last year.

Focus Ireland CEO Pat Dennigan said: “Despite all the good work being done, it is clear that current Government policy is failing to tackle the scale of the crisis. Focus Ireland has once again called for some honest reflection by the Government to help deliver the changes that will end this crisis.”

The figures show a rise of 41 people in one month alone from 10,264 in Feb to 10,305 in March 2019. The Department of the Environment figures also show that 3821 of the number homeless are children (in 1733 families)

Focus Ireland maintains that an honest reflection of the current situation must start from a recognition that the primary response to homelessness to date has been to build more homeless emergency accommodation rather than building more homes, and that this approach can never work. Since the homeless crisis began, Dublin has acquired thousands of extra emergency homeless beds but has fewer social houses. The delivery of social housing nationwide is also failing to meet the great demand.

The charity stressed that delivering more social housing would also help people struggling to find somewhere to live in the rental market as it would directly result in freeing up many units in the private rented market that are currently used for HAP (Housing Assistance Payment) tenancies. To deliver this target Government and local authorities must drive far more ambitious social housing targets and build new viable communities on the scale required to address housing need.

Focus Ireland CEO Pat Dennigan said: “Focus Ireland works very hard with the Government and local authorities nationwide to prevent homelessness and also to help families and individuals who are homeless to secure a home. The crisis would clearly be much worse without this great work. However, we do not shy away from repeatedly outlining our very great concern that the Government’s primary response to the crisis of family homelessness has been to build more ‘Hubs’ and other emergency accommodation. The recent report from the Children’s Ombusdman shows that even the best such emergency accommodation in Family Hubs falls far short of what families need.

“Dublin City Council’s new Homeless Strategy commits to providing hundreds more emergency beds in the next few years, but makes no commitment the number of people who are homeless or the length of time they remain homeless. If anything is a signal of failure that must be. More emergency beds is no more of a solution to homelessness than more trollies would be a solution to the health crisis.”

He added: “The key area of reflection by the Government should be the failure, despite much good work, to stem the constant rising flow of people losing their homes and becoming homeless. For over two years Focus Ireland has been providing evidence that landlords evicting to sell is the largest single cause of family homelessness. The Government has rejected the solution we proposed (of giving greater protections to tenants) but has failed to come up with any proposal of its own to tackle a problem which results in around 18 families a week becoming homeless.”

Focus Ireland helped over 400 families to secure a home last year – in partnership with the State – and to move on from homelessness.  However, the latest figures show that the crisis is deepening despite this good work by state agencies and NGO’s as the Government has not taken enough action to tackle the deeper issues which are driving more people into homelessness.

Meanwhile, Focus Ireland said that its own figures show that 82 families became newly homeless in Dublin in March the same number as March 2018.

Editors Notes:

Focus Ireland also noted that the latest Government figures exclude families who have been assessed as homeless by local authorities, are receiving homeless support funded by the Department of Housing and are living in emergency homeless accommodation which has its ‘own front door’ . The Minister’s still unexplained decision to exclude from the monthly figures homeless families who are accommodated in premises ‘with their own front’ door means that the monthly figures show only part of the problem. Even if the Minister wants to maintain that families in ‘own door’ emergency accommodation should be excluded from the headline homeless figures, Focus Ireland has called for the number of families living in ‘own door’ emergency accommodation to be published each month along with the headline figure. This is the practice in England and Scotland where similar properties are used to accommodate homeless families, and gives a much clearer picture of the nature of the problem for policy makers and services.

 Media Contact: Roughan Mac Namara – 086 85 15 117

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