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Sunday 26 March 2017

'Everything that can be done is being done' - Environment Minister responds as homelessness figures reach record high

The number of families accessing homeless services has reached a record high
The number of families accessing homeless services has reached a record high

Sarah-Jane Murphy

Environment Minister Alan Kelly has responded to media reports regarding the 'perfect storm' surrounding the homelessness crisis gripping Ireland.

"It is essential that I have the co-operation of local authorities; without them this problem cannot be addressed," he told RTE's News at One.

"We are in this situation as a result of a number of variables - there has been no construction for years and rent issues are spiralling in urban areas."

The minister said that "funding is not the problem, if there's a lack of funding I can address it."

"Homeless organisations need to work together and not compete against each other," he said.

"I am in favour of an increase in rent supplement if it assists those who really need it. I don't want it to just increase rents across the board.

"As regards empty houses there are a whole range of voids that we are turning around as quickly as we can."

"I take responsibility for my ministry and assure you that everything that can be done is being done."

"There will be a dramatic increase in private housing as a result of construction 20:20."

"Homelessness is the number one priority for me and my department."

The minister's comments follow the release of new figures from housing charity Focus Ireland which shows the number of families accessing homeless services reached a record level in July.

Some 77 families from Dublin became homeless last month, 70 of which have never been homeless before.

Focus Ireland said the volume of people seeking homeless services in Dublin reaches a new crisis point every month.

In the year to date 466 families have become homeless, almost as many as did during the 12 months of 2014.

The housing charity said the homeless crisis can be solved if it is made a true priority by the Government and must be treated as a national emergency.

Read More: Calls for Kelly to act on 'tsunami' of homelessness

Speaking on RTE's Morning Ireland, Mike Allen of Focus Ireland said that the prospect of these families moving on from homelessness is very slight.

"Every month we produce a larger figure than the month before.

"This country is meant to be recovering and yet we see families feeling the appalling effects of the economic crisis.

"These people who are homeless now were working in jobs before the crash in 2010.

"No homeless service can cope with this scale of influx every month.

"We need an immediate increase in rent supplement and the building of new homes," he said.

Read More: Alan Kelly 'should cut holiday short' to deal with 'tsunami of homelessness'

Meanwhile a Cork based homeless service has said they are seeing more and more women and children seeking a bed after being evicted.

Good Shepherd Services say increased demand has meant that they have had to turn away 130 women and children in the first quarter of 2015.

The charity offers both emergency and long-term accommodation for women and children and says they are now helping more than they were last year.

“It’s countrywide problem,”says Good Shepard’s CEO Tony O’Riordan.

“It’s definitely worst in Dublin but it shouldn’t be talked about that it’s all about a Dublin problem.

"It’s happening in Cork and I’m sure if you talked to people in Limerick, Waterford and Galway you’d hear the same.”

Figures released yesterday by Cork City Council showed that in July there were 22 families in emergency accommodation across the city. These families consisted of 26 adults and 49 children.

There were also 232 people in single emergency accommodation.

O’Riordan says that the lack of supply of houses is a problem and the associated issue of high rents is putting pressure on homeless services.

“Our sole objective is to work with the women and children we care for and break the cycle of homelessness and encourage and support independent living,” he explains.

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