New Figures Show A Record Number Now Homeless in Ireland
Strategy must include a strong commitment to prevention and a cast iron commitment that no family should be homeless for more than 6 months.
New government figures for February issued today show a record total of 7,421 people who are homeless in Ireland- a shocking total of 2,546 of these are children.
The national total has shot up by 254 compared to the 7,167 people homeless in January- an increase of more than 9 people for every day in February.
Focus Ireland said the crisis continues to deepen as huge members of families are still losing their homes.
The charity’s own new monthly figures for Dublin report that 62 families with 105 children became newly homeless in February.
There are now 1,055 families homeless in Dublin (up 48 from 1,007 in January)- 1,239 families are homeless nationwide (up from 1,172 in January).
Mike Allen, Director of Advocacy at Focus Ireland, said: “We warned that the recent welcome drop in the number of families homeless would not continue unless more effective action was taken to prevent people losing their homes and becoming homeless. Sadly, last month’s rise in the numbers of family homeless proves our point.”
He added: “Focus Ireland’s new monthly figures show at least 2 families became newly homeless in Dublin every day during February. At the same time the number of families our staff were able to support to secure a home and escape homelessness (with support from the Dublin Region Homeless Executive and local authorities) fell from the record levels we had been achieving in recent months- down to only 14. This drop was due to a massive demand for any affordable private rented accommodation in Dublin.”
Focus Ireland maintains that a key part of the failure by successive governments to tackle this ongoing homeless crisis is that the response has been led by a series of “Halfway House” policies. The charity said that while there are some very positive policies being rolled out (the commitment to 47,000 social houses , the repair and leasing scheme, the vacant homes initiative) they fall short because they try to keep all parties happy. They are not single-minded enough to address the underlying structural problems – and so the crisis continues.
Mr. Allen explained: “The policy approach has been to lead with market incentives in a whole range of areas, mixed in with a lot of very good intentions. The alternative would be, for instance, to directly fund the local authorities to actually build the new housing themselves, or instead offering incentives to people to rent out their empty houses or stop hoarding building land to introduce penalties for those who will not. We also need to introduce binding legislation to fully protect tenants against financial institutions and vulture funds who are foreclosing on buy-to-let properties.”
From our front-line work, Focus Ireland know that the single largest cause of homelessness is now property being taken out of the rental market, either by the landlord selling up, or using the property for their own family. The government voted down legislation last year to stop evictions of tenants in buy-to-let properties that are being sold (Fianna Fail abstained on this vote). We believe that if that legislation had been passed as many of 20 of the families who became homeless in February would still have a home.
These policies should be a part of a dedicated sub-strategy to address family homelessness, which would take account of how recent this problem is in Ireland and its potentially devastating effects on the children involved.
The current approach primarily involves establishing a large number of new ‘temporary’ homeless accommodations for families, which suggest the Government has decided to that we can accept family homelessness and just manage its impacts, rather than tackle it at its root.
The charity said a new sub-strategy must include a cast-iron time frame to be set for how long families are to be allowed to suffer as homeless. The Minister should move now to set out the actions to be taken over the next three years to prevent family homelessness and provide a home for all those who are homeless within 6 months of them losing their homes.
Editors notes: The latest homeless figures are always available on our website
Media Contact: Roughan Mac Namara 086 85 15 117