Thursday 18 December 2014

Burton 'hopeful' of ending homelessness by 2016

Brian Byrne

Published 25/06/2014 | 15:39

Joan Burton Photo: Gerry Mooney

SOCIAL protection minister Joan Burton has denied that the Government will be unable to fulfil its promise of ending homelessness by 2016.

Responding to a claim by homeless charity founder Peter McVerry who said the Government's 2016 plan was “unrealistic,” Ms Burton said: “I certainly hope it will happen.”

Ms Burton said she was committed to eradicating the problem by increasing the amount of social housing available, including the use of empty boarded-up and NAMA-owned properties, while also securing European investment.

Founder of the Peter McVerry Trust Mr McVerry said that while the plan would “take a lot of homeless people off the streets,” many more people are becoming homeless on a daily basis.

Mr McVerry said: “I think it's too little. There are a lot of people becoming homeless every day, particularly in the Dublin area, and I predict that by the end of 2016, we will have more homeless people than we do today.”

Ms Burton also said she was “surprised” at criticism that the proposed Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) would force thousands off social housing waiting lists, stating that it would allow them to seek employment.

Critics lashed out at the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, which they claimed will effectively close the option of applying for social housing.

Ms Burton said: “On the contrary, one of the problems for people who are on rent supplement at the moment is that you are effectively disbarred from being able to take up employment.

“The rent supplement, particularly for parents in their 30s and 40s, becomes an employment trap, and that becomes a poverty trap as well.

“If you have, through the HAP, a secure tenancy, whether that's in private rented accommodation or with a local authority, you then have the option of being able to go out to work,” she said.

According to the Peter McVerry Trust annual report, the charity supported 3,586 people and provided 2,124 residential placements last year.

It's estimated that around 120 people sleep rough on the streets of Dublin every night.

Mr McVerry claimed the actual number was “at least twice that,” as it does not record people who break into private parks and those sleeping rough in suburban areas.

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