Focus Ireland has welcomed today’s publication of the Government’s new strategy, ‘Housing for All’, particularly the commitment to end homelessness by 2030. The charity also acknowledged the ambitious targets for building new social and affordable housing outlined in the strategy but emphasised the importance of maximising housing delivery early in the 10-year strategy.
Focus Ireland CEO Pat Dennigan said: “Since the current housing and homelessness crisis emerged around 2013, successive Governments have consistently underestimated the scale of the problem and the volume of the resources which are required to tackle it.”
‘’This is the first time that the aspirations of a government strategy begin to match the massive scale of the problem. This is a welcome starting point, but only time will tell if the increased resources – and the decisions on how they will be deployed – are sufficient to end the crisis.”
He added: “Focus Ireland is fully committed to working with Government in whatever way we can to deliver our portion of the new homes and achieve the ambition of ending homelessness.”
Focus Ireland said the return to a commitment to ‘end homelessness’ is a really positive move. This follows through on the Government’s decision in June to ratify the EU Lisbon Declaration with its commitment that all EU countries will work together towards ending homelessness by 20301.
Mike Allen, Focus Ireland’s Director of Advocacy said: “The commitment to work to ‘end homelessness’ rather than just ‘manage’ it, must be more than words and must help to drive real changes. To make this a reality, policy must shift away from providing more shelters as a response to homelessness. This commitment must spearhead a move to provide more affordable housing, adequate supports and effective prevention measures to help keep people in their homes.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Dennigan welcomed the recognition that it is not possible to solve the housing problem for one sector of society without fixing the overall problems with the housing system. ‘We welcome the high-level governance of the plan and the all-Government Cabinet overview and trust that the detailed levels of monitoring which have been set out will be based on data which is clear, consistent and independent, as the weaknesses in this regard consistently undermined the hard work behind Rebuilding Ireland.
Focus Ireland acknowledged that it is inevitable that a document pulling together such a wide range of complex issues is lacking in detail. The charity stressed that it is not a criticism of the strategy to say that some vital elements still need to be fully worked out. The objective of ending homelessness by 2030 will not be easily achieved and will need a strong coalition of government and other interests as well as a clear Implementation Plan.
Focus Ireland said it would strongly encourage the Government to convene a meeting of relevant stakeholders, including homeless organisations committed to this objective, to start developing such a plan. Focus Ireland is said it would be keen to work in partnership to help shape and deliver such a plan.
However, the charity also voiced its concern that the strategy does not pay enough attention to the ongoing problem of family homelessness, and the long-term harm it is causing children in families who are homeless. The Department of Children, Tusla and the Department of Education need to have a much greater engagement in these issues than has been the case to date.
Mr. Dennigan commented: “While the recent decline in family homelessness is welcome and Focus Ireland has worked with the State to help achieve as we helped a record number of families to exit homelessness in the last year. However, there is so much more to be done as the reality is that there are almost three times as many families homeless now (905) there were in May 2014 when the then Minister for Housing declared it an “emergency crisis’ (349).
“While the private rental sector is mentioned in various parts of the report, there is no clear focus on the enormous challenges there. The strategy does not seem to provide a solution to the large number of households becoming homeless because their landlords are evicting them to sell the premises, unless this is resolved, there is a real risk that homelessness will rise rather than come to an end.”
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 Footnote for editors: The Irish Government last stated a commitment to end homelessness in 2008, in its national homelessness strategy, A Way Home. While the commitment was derailed by the Global Economic Crisis, the lowest ever recorded levels of homelessness were achieved around 2010.〈 Back to Press Releases