As official homeless figures reach yet another record high, Focus Ireland warned today that the homelessness crisis will not be ended without a shift in national Government policy, backed up by a fresh approach at a local level by newly elected Councillors nationwide.
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.
Focus Ireland said that – while action is required by the national Government – the newly elected Councillors also all have a vital role to play in helping to end this crisis and increase social housing provision nationwide.
Focus Ireland CEO Pat Dennigan said
“While a shift in national policy is important, local councillors coming into office this week can make a real difference by changing the way homelessness and housing is addressed. Homelessness and housing were the issues that dominated the local election campaign. The fact this widespread concern did not turn into a decisive vote for any particular party should not lead to complacency in any party – the electorate want this problem solved, believes it can be solved but do not believe any party has yet put forward the solutions that are needed to solve it. It is up to the newly elected councillors to show what can be done.
“Councillors must not take the approach that there is nothing they can do, and that the crisis is a matter for their officials or for the Minister. The legal responsibility for tackling homelessness lies with local councils. The long-term legacy of the 2019 local election should be a new approach to tackling homelessness and a new relevance for local government.”
The figures show a rise of 73 people in one month alone from 10,305 in March 2019 to 10,378 in April. This is a 7.5% rise since April last year when 9652 people were homeless. The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government figures also show that 3794 of the number homeless are children (in 1729 families)
Meanwhile, figures also issued today by Focus Ireland show that a total of 94 families (with 137 children) became newly homeless in Dublin alone in April. This is the highest ever number of families to become homeless in April, again demonstrating that more needs to be done to prevent families becoming homeless in the first place. That means one family became homeless every eight hours in our capital city last month.
Focus Ireland maintains said that 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. Dublin has provided thousands of extra emergency homeless beds since the homelessness crisis has developed but now has fewer social houses than in the past. The charity said that the delivery of social housing nationwide is also failing to meet the great demand.
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.
“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.”
During the local election campaign Focus Ireland ran a high profile campaign, setting out three key areas where councillors can make a difference in tackling homelessness:
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.
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