New Government Figures Show A Record Number of 7,472 People Now Homeless

Focus Ireland said new Government figures issued this evening which report a record total of 7,472 people homeless in Ireland clearly demonstrates the deepening crisis.

The figures show a massive 32% rise in the number of families homeless in Ireland in the last year.

The figures for March report 1,256 families homeless compared to 955 in March last year. A shocking total of 2,563 children are now homeless within these families- a 29% rise since March 2016 when 1,994 children were homeless.

Focus Ireland said the crisis continues to deepen as huge numbers of families are still losing their homes.

Roughan Mac Namara of Focus Ireland said, “We warned that the previous welcome drop in the number of families homeless earlier this year would not continue unless more effective action was taken to prevent people losing their homes and becoming homeless. Focus Ireland’s family team work to support families while they are homeless and to help them to secure a home and escape homelessness, with support from the Dublin Region Homeless Executive and local authorities.”

“However, this fell from the record levels we had been achieving- down to only 14 families moved on by our services in February. This drop was due to the massive demand for any affordable private rented accommodation in Dublin and a lack of social housing.”

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. Mac Namara explained: “The policy approach has been been to lead with market incentives in a whole range of areas, mixed 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 in Dublin 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 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 six 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

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