New figures issued by Focus Ireland show that nearly 300 families have become homeless in Dublin in the first 3 months of 2016 alone as the crisis continues to deepen

These latest figures mean that 292 families – and aprox 600 children* (final figure for children TBC) have become homeless in the first 3 months of this year alone in the capital.

These latest figures come following a record total of 125 families became homeless in Jan and 83 in Feb this year in Dublin.

Meanwhile more new figures also published today by the Department of the Environment on its website show that the number of families and children in homeless emergency accommodation at a national level at a point in time as of the end of February has shot up by a staggering 112% in the last year – from 429 families with 938 children in Feb 2015 to a current total of 912 families & 1881 children.

These shocking new figures come just ahead of the Dail sitting today and there is also a joint Meeting of the Cross Departmental Team on Homelessness and the National Homelessness Consultative Committee.

Focus Ireland said it is highly worrying that despite all the talk about “homelessness” the caretaker Government has taken no new actions to tackle this worsening crisis since the Dail first sat over a month ago on March 10th.

Focus Ireland Director of Advocacy Mike Allen said: “These new figures clearly show that the family homeless crisis is continuing to deepen with nearly 300 newly homeless families referred to Focus Ireland’s Family Services in the first three months of this year compared to a total of 739 becoming homeless in Dublin during the whole of last year. Many more single people have also become homeless during this time.”

He added: “It is important to highlight that while the number of families becoming homeless is shocking the situation would in fact be much worse without the work Focus Ireland does in supporting families to move out of homelessness into secure housing with the support of the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive. It was great to see these families we have been working to support finally find a place to call home. It means so much to them and is so positive for all – especially the children.”

Focus Ireland said it helps at least one family a day to secure a home and escape from being homeless with the support of the DRHE and Local Authorities. However, at the same time at least 3 families are still becoming newly homeless every single day so this means the crisis continues to deepen even further.

Focus Ireland has said tackling the housing and homeless crisis must be at the heart of any new Programme For Government, and the charity previously issued a five point plan setting out the key elements which should inform such a programme. These demands include calling for a cast iron commitment to end family homelessness with a firm target date to achieve this and also a commitment to build 40,000 social homes over the next 5 years.

Mike Allen said, “We must remember that while the horse-trading to form the new government is taking place more than 3 families have become homeless every single day so far this year. Today’s joint meeting is a positive development to discuss some pressing issues. However, it is important to stress that there are a range of measures which can be put in place while we wait for the new government to be formed to ensure that they are not starting from scratch on putting together a plan to tackle the housing and homeless crisis.

Some of these urgent actions Focus Ireland is calling for include:

– Firm action to provide greater security for tenants in buy-to-let properties as 27,492 of these properties are more than 90 days in arrears. The Dail can easily fast-track amendments to current legislation to provide this vital protection for tenants as we wait for a new government to be formed.

– Taking action to raise rent supplement so it reflects market rents as this will help to keep families and individuals in their current homes and prevent them from becoming homeless.

– To confirm what action is required to ensure NAMA delivers more social housing.

Focus Ireland maintains that while it supports the appointment of a dedicated Housing Minister it is important to highlight this will not change things by itself unless the Minister has the full support of all the Government to mobilise all the states resources to tackle the housing and homeless crisis on an emergency response basis.

Mike Allen said: “The outgoing Government did some work to help prevent families and individuals from becoming homeless and others to move on and secure a home. However, the actions were neither sufficient nor fast enough to deal with the problems, and in some areas, such as Rent Supplement, they actually helped transform the housing crisis into a homeless emergency. We must learn from these mistakes and make sure these mistakes are not repeated by the next Government.”

*Editors Notes:

Focus Ireland said the increased number of families moving out of homelessness is mainly because of three important developments. The charity is supporting at least one family a day to secure a home with the support of the DRHE and the Local Authorities.

1) There has been continued effort to allocate 50% of all social housing (including AHBs) in Dublin to homeless households. If this fell back to the historic level of around 10%, only 4 families would have been allocated homes and 15 would have remained living in hotel rooms.

2) The Government has increased the level of rent payable on the HAP scheme for homeless households to reflect market rents, this means rents are being paid at over 50% above than the Department of Social Protection’s (DOSP)‘maximum rent’ level. This is very welcome as it allows these families access the private rented market, but it demonstrates yet again that the DOSP Rent supplement rules do not reflect reality.

3) The four local authorities have increased the number of case workers in the Focus Ireland HAT team. Focus Ireland is the designated Family Homeless Action Team by the four local authorities in Dublin and provides support to the families that have become homeless in the city. We are still completing the new recruitment for the enhanced team, but when it is complete we will be able to provide a case manager for every family and so significantly increase their chances of getting a new home.

Media Contact: Roughan Mac Namara, 086 85 15 117.

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