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Thursday 19 July 2018

State's inaction dooms thousands to a transient lifestyle

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

We are in danger of losing a generation of young people to a life of hotels and homelessness. The fact one in four of the homeless population is under 18 years of age should serve as a wake-up call that in Ireland, thousands of people are being left behind.

For many families, sitting together to enjoy a meal is an everyday event. Not so for those in emergency accommodation. Just this week, reports suggested families were forced to eat take-away food due to the lack of cooking facilities. This in a country which has supposedly overcome the financial crisis.

The basics of family life disappear when there is nowhere to call home. Doing homework in a hotel room surrounded by family isn't conducive to achieving good grades. Being unable to enjoy some time alone because you're all living in one room cannot be good for anyone's mental health. And this in a nation which claims to value children and all citizens equally. Despite passing the Children's Referendum in 2012, almost 1,900 minors are homeless. What is the Government doing?

Confirmation from the Central Statistics Office that the homeless crisis has worsened since 2011 is no surprise. But what is surprising is the number of people in a crisis situation who are educated, working and young.

It beggars belief that almost 800 people are in employment, but unable to secure somewhere to live in a country with more than 180,000 vacant properties. The Constitution provides that all citizens have the right to a means of livelihood to make "reasonable provision" for their domestic needs, but this is clearly not the case.

That more than 420 have a third-level qualification, but cannot enjoy the benefit of their education, is an issue. That more than 800 people have psychological or emotional conditions but do not have access to treatment highlights the State's failings. That almost half of all homeless people - 2.968 - are in families of all shapes and sizes, but forced to rely on hotels or emergency accommodation, suggests the most basic building block of society is in deep trouble.

The homeless population isn't just a statistic. It's men and women who lost jobs, were hit with some awful personal tragedy, fled an unstable family background or perhaps an abusive partner, or fell behind in their mortgage repayments. Some have substance or mental health issues. It's children. It's everyone.

On one week in June, 7,941 men, women and children were in emergency accommodation, higher than the census suggests. Through inaction, or failure to manage this crisis, the Government is sentencing thousands to a transient life in hotels and temporary accommodation. Where's the justice in that?

Irish Independent

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