Sunday 15 December 2019

Children living in 'tenements' as the housing crisis deepens

Peter McVerry. Photo: Mark Condren
Peter McVerry. Photo: Mark Condren
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

MANY children today are "back living in the tenements" because of the spiralling crisis in homelessness, Barnardos has warned.

Workers with Ireland's largest children's charity are seeing families whose accommodation situation is putting their children at grave health and safety risks, with some even being forced to share accommodation with others who may be "entirely unsuitable" to be around children.

Other families have been forced to move far from their local area for accommodation, meaning children have to rise early in order to catch "multiple buses" to get to school on time, leaving them exhausted and unfit for their studies.

A Barnardos press conference today will focus on children as the 'hidden victims' in the worsening housing crisis, which fellow campaigner Fr Peter McVerry has described as a "tsunami of homelessness" and the worst crisis he has ever witnessed.

Six people are becoming homeless every day, according to official figures.

Minister for Housing Jan O'Sullivan says she is working with the Department of Social Protection to tackle the issue and is investigating the possibility of converting buildings like former garda stations into affordable accommodation.

Speaking on RTE Radio One's 'This Week', she said 25,000 units per year are needed to tackle the current housing crisis and that she will ensure that there is a level of flexibility in the planning system so those units can be constructed.

"We can never go back to the crazy situation in the past," said the Minister. "For the last three years we were constrained about what money the Government could spend."

She said the government will now focus on building in areas where there is a need.

Fr Peter McVerry warned that the "tsunami of homelessness" is the worst he has seen in 40 years of working with homeless people in Dublin.

His charity, the Peter McVerry Trust, is struggling to cope with demand and is being forced to turn away people for the first time ever.

Speaking on RTE's 'Sunday with Miriam', he said we were now "beyond crisis at this stage".

"In all the years I have been working with homeless people, it has never been so bad."

Fr McVerry added that with up to 35,000 home repossessions feared over the next few years, the rise in homelessness could bring down the Government.

"There are also 40,000 buy-to-let mortgages in arrears. . . Ultimately, because of the changing nature of homelessness, these are ordinary people who will vote, and their families will vote. I think this whole issue of housing and homelessness could bring this Government down," he said.

The crux of the problem, he says, is that the traditional exits from homelessness – social housing and the private rental market – were no longer open to people.

"There is a dearth of social housing. In the cities, and in Dublin in particular, the private rental sector is out of reach for homeless people because the rents are escalating – they are going through the roof."

Fr McVerry has appealed to the current Government to make 1,500 houses and apartments available to ease the crisis, adding that it would be far more cost-effective than putting people into hotels, hostels and shelters.

Irish Independent

Also in Business