Monday 18 November 2019

Figures show dramatic rise in homeless adults

Bill Browne

New figures released by Focus Ireland showing a 23% increase in the number of homeless adults across Cork over the past year, have underlined what the charity says is the "terrible trauma" caused by homelessness.

The figures showed that as September drew to a close there 435 adults classed as homeless across the city and country - up from 354 at the same time last year, with only Dublin showing a larger percentage annual increase.

The number of homeless families in the South-West region (Cork and Kerry) has also risen from 116 to 124 - including 288 children. 

The September figures also reveal that the total number of children homeless nationally is 3,873 (in 1,756 families). 

The charity's South-West Manager, Ger Spillane, said that the crisis in Cork is being driven by a combination of a lack of available accommodation and high rents, which he said were now comparable to those in the capital. 

"One of the reasons for the high number of adults who are homeless in Cork is that demand is completely outweighing supply. That and the fact that Rent Pressures Zones are being ignored by many landlords," said Mr Spillane. 

He said that while cranes are dotting the skyline of the city and county, they were building offices and hotels as opposed to affordable housing. 

"In addition, the lack of one-bed apartments is also a serious contributor to the number of homeless adults, particularly single people. An offset of the crisis is that many individuals and families are now being forced out of the city, to towns in the county such as Mallow, Middleton and Cobh where rents are also increasing," said Mr Spillane. 

The charity's director of advocacy, Mike Allen, said that one key way to addressing the issue of homelessness would be for the government to introduce tax measures through the Finance Bill making it more beneficial for landlords to sell property with tenants in situ.

"The record number of families becoming homeless in September highlights yet again that the problem cannot be solved unless the government moves to stop families being evicted from their homes by landlords who wish to sell up," said Mr Allen. 

"No individual or family should ever have to go through the awful experience of losing their home. This crisis is causing so much terrible damage to many individuals and families. Homelessness is hurting our children the most and this must end."

Mr Allen said that while Focus Ireland has, in partnership with the State, and its supporters, managed to secure homes for more than 1,200 families over the past two years it was evident from the latest figures that "much more needs to be done" to tackle the problem. 

"There is much good work being done, without which this crisis would be much worse," he said.  

"However, we have to ask ourselves as a society why so many of our children are being put through this terrible trauma in the first place? While other children and their families are having fun decorating their homes and holding Halloween parties, we have seen the shocking situation where three families lose their home every single day in Ireland," he said.