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'Humanitarian issue' as 1,500 children are left without a home


Fianna Fáil environment spokesman Barry Cowen

Fianna Fáil environment spokesman Barry Cowen

Damien Eagers

Fianna Fáil environment spokesman Barry Cowen

More children are accessing homeless services than ever before, as a homeless charity reported a 400pc increase in demand for support from vulnerable families in the past year.

A lack of suitable accommodation saw 42pc fewer homeless people re-homed last year as homeless organisations come under increasing pressure.

Depaul Ireland, a homeless charity operating on both sides of the border, also confirmed that demand for its services increased by 65pc in 2014.

Most of this increase is attributed to rising numbers of children finding themselves homeless, as parents in the private rental sector struggle to meet rising rents.

Currently there are more than 700 families and 1,500 children in homeless accommodation in Ireland.

Depaul CEO Kerry Anthony said the homeless issue is a humanitarian crisis not seen at this level before and she fears the problem could get worse.

"The family numbers have more than doubled compared to this time last year, which is chronic," she said.

"Obviously the impact that living in temporary and hostel-type accommodation is going to have on children now and in later life is significant," she added.

"Supply is the fundamental issue. That is the bottom line because there is not enough social housing available."

The charity saw a 407pc increase in the number of children accessing its services last year.

There was a 378pc increase in the number of families seeking support.

In total, the charity assisted 300 homeless children and 178 families in Dublin last year.

However, these numbers are growing and Ms Anthony has called on the Government to work towards replacing the "unsatisfactory" night-by-night accommodation offered to homeless people.

She said she is also concerned that government investment may be short sighted.

And, following the death of a homeless man who had been sleeping rough on Dawson Lane in Dublin city centre last Friday, Ms Anthony warned the situation will only get worse as winter approaches.

"People are talking about this as a crisis and a humanitarian crisis and this is probably the worst I have seen," said Ms Anthony.

"The night-by-night beds are unsatisfactory. We are facing into the winter again with more than 150 people sleeping rough in Dublin city centre," she added.

"I would love to see the beds that are already in the system turned into a six-month support accommodation."

Depaul director of services David Carroll said a move away from the night-by-night system, where people can obtain a bed between 9pm and 9am, would give security to those who are most vulnerable.

"If you can work with individuals on their issues there is a better chance of getting them out of homelessness," he said.

"We would like to see a greater emphasis on preventing people coming into homelessness in the first place."

The Government said it remains committed to ending involuntary, long-term homelessness next year.

A spokesperson for the Department of Environment said a task force is working to identify and secure properties for homeless families.

"The response contains a mix of initiatives, some short term and some long term," he said.

"The Dublin Region Homeless Executive has indicated that they hope to be in a position to add to the winter bed capacity significantly this year," he added.

Fianna Fáil environment spokesman Barry Cowen said more needs to be done to protect vulnerable families in the private rental sector.

"Ultimately this means building more homes in the right places," he said. "Government policy is pushing more and more families off the edge of the private sector into the pit of homelessness."

Irish Independent