Friday 30 September 2016

Homeless charity calls for 'immediate' action ahead of housing forum

Meadhbh McGrath

Published 31/03/2016 | 10:59

The Dublin Simon Community has called on the government to put together a package to stem the flow of people falling into homelessness
The Dublin Simon Community has called on the government to put together a package to stem the flow of people falling into homelessness
Niamh Randall
Acting Environment minister Alan Kelly. Photo: Irish Independent

Figures show that 5,715 men, women and children are now stuck in emergency accommodation – an increase of 49pc over the course of 2015.

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The Simon Communities in Ireland cited the alarming figures as they called for a cross-party platform to tackle the homeless crisis ahead of the forum on housing taking place in Dublin today.

Their research found that the number of children in emergency accommodation has risen to 1,830 (an increase of 111pc on 2014), with the number of families now at 884 (an increase of 120pc).

Niamh Randall, spokesperson for the Simon Communities, has said that the situation continues to grow worse each day as we wait for the formation of a new government.

Niamh Randall
Niamh Randall

“We need short, medium and long-term measures to have a realistic impact and to increase housing supply, but also to stop people, families and children becoming homeless,” she told Newstalk Breakfast this morning.

The forum will be hosted by Acting Environment Minister Alan Kelly. Former Housing Minister Paudie Coffey will attend, along with representatives from NGOs and State organisations.

“The housing and homeless crisis is absolutely a national crisis, it’s affecting every region and every community around the country,” said Ms Randall.

She described the latest figures as “shocking and stark”, saying: “Living in emergency accommodation is hugely damaging and very, very traumatic for people, for families and for individuals who are living in one hotel room and trying to eat, sleep and play but also for a grown adult sharing dormitory-style accommodation.”

Acting Environment minister Alan Kelly. Photo: Irish Independent
Acting Environment minister Alan Kelly. Photo: Irish Independent

She explained that a crucial aspect of any plan to address the crisis is to consider how to prevent people from becoming homeless, citing rent supplement as “an absolute necessity”.

The homeless charity are urging an immediate increase in rent supplement to correspond with real market rents, as well as the introduction of measures to tackle buy-to-let mortgages in distress.

Ms Randall noted that although such properties may not be the principal home of the mortgage holder, they are somebody else’s home.

The Simon Communities are also advocating for greater protection for the private rental sector, better use of existing empty private housing units and to bring vacant Local Authority housing back into use in a timely manner.

Ms Randall said that the number of people sleeping rough remains high in Dublin, and has risen dramatically in Cork.

“From our own experience, the numbers in Cork have increased quite rapidly, from 38 people in 2011 to 345 people in 2015, which is a huge increase.”

She argued that coordinated action is necessary to address the crisis.

“We’re asking all recently-elected TDs to put aside their party colours and their affiliations and to agree that this is a red line issue that we need to work on immediately,” said Ms Randall.

“We need to pull together experts to work on this - we need to deliver this really rapidly.”

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