Focus Ireland welcomes homeless summit but stressed government must take more action to keep vulnerable families & individuals in their homes to stem the rising tide of homelessness.
Focus Ireland said today that it welcomed the common cause between Government, local authorities and homeless organisations to ensure that no family or individual has to sleep rough because of lack of access to emergency accommodation.
The charity said the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive has worked hard in partnership with Focus Ireland and other NGO’s on this year’s cold weather initiative which will see over 100 extra emergency beds in place. It also involves a detailed protocol which will ensure there is an immediate response to families who find themselves without anywhere to sleep at night.
However, Focus Ireland said it remains highly concerns by the situation where some hotels are closing over Christmas and the families in emergency accommodation at these hotels are still in limbo as they don’t know where they’ll be staying then. We hope that the Minister will be able to give some assurances on this issue at this afternoons meeting. They also expressed concern that similar cold weather action plans are needed in cities like Waterford, Cork and Limerick which are seeing unprecedented rough sleeping as a result of the current crisis.
Focus Ireland, however, warned that the common action to tackle the immediate crisis was not being matched by action on the underlying problems which are driving people into homelessness in the first place.
Focus Ireland Director of Advocacy Mike Allen said: “We know the DRHE are working hard on the issue of the hotels closing but the Government should have never let it get to this stage of crisis”
We need a more urgent response from the whole of Government to stem the rising flow of 70 to 80 families becoming homeless every month and also action to fast-track delivery of housing for people who are homeless or at risk.”
One of the questions which Focus Ireland will be raising at the meeting is why the State is set to work with NAMA to build 2,000 homes, 90% of which will be then sold on the open market at a time when there is a homeless emergency situation and an urgent need for social housing.
Mike Allen said: “Minister Kelly has made clear his commitment to building social housing and has acknowledged that one of the barriers he faces it the capacity of local authorities and Approve Housing Bodies to actually get the works started after so many years of cutting back on key staff. But here we have an arm of the state – NAMA- which has clearly got the capacity to build housing but is being allowed to choose to build homes for the private market. It seems incredible that NAMA resources are to be used to deliver 2000 homes – of which only 10% will be social homes – at the very time we have over 800 families and more than 1500 children homeless and a rising number of nearly 2500 single people are also homeless.“
He added: “The key to tackling the current homeless crisis is delivery of homes and yet the Government seems to be putting most of its focus on the delivery of homes for the private market which seems bizarre. Focus Ireland would ask the Taoiseach and the Government why is the State building homes for the private market in the first place?”
Focus Ireland said that while several elements of the recent Government package of measures to tackle the housing and rental crisis are welcome – the charity warned the plans may fall short of the response required to end the current homeless emergency situation. The charity said the measures will help many households who are secure in the rental market but will fail to protect some of the most vulnerable households who are being forced into homelessness every day.
Focus Ireland Director of Advocacy said: “There are measures in the package which we have been seeking for some time – such as providing tax breaks to landlords that rent to social tenants, longer notice periods and greater scrutiny to stop landlords evicting tenants unfairly – and these will help the situation. The measures to boost the building of new units are also welcome and long-overdue. However, there are two critical elements which the package does not address: the level of Rent Supplement and the actions of banks when they repossess buy-to-let landlords. These are huge underlying issues and so the package risks not stemming the constant flow of 70 to 80 families a month losing their homes and becoming homeless in Dublin alone. This problem is also rising now in other major cities nationwide such as Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford. Focus Ireland once again stressed that 70 to 80 families lose their homes every month in Dublin alone and the key reason triggering homelessness is that they can’t afford the rent rises that have already been imposed upon them. It is positive that further increases may be slowed because of the rule moving rent reviews to every two years. However, rent supplement has not been raised in three years despite rents rocketing by 30 to 40% in this time and we need to close that gap between this payment and actual rents.
Focus Ireland stressed that we now need the political will and the resources delivered to end homelessness. The charity said there needs to be a set of interlocking strategies covering the long-term problems as well as the short-term crisis.
Media Contact: Michelle Moran 086 468 0442