By Ann Marie Foley - 05 November, 2015
The Government is failing to stem the flow of people into homelessness and is undermining frontline efforts to tackle the emergency, according to the Peter McVerry Trust.
The charity made its criticism in a statement issued in response to the publication of the Annual Cold Weather Initiative for Dublin on Wednesday (4 November).
“While families are flooding into homelessness, Ministers are bickering, arguing with one another and disagreeing with one another. ‘Nero fiddles while Rome burns’ – that’s the only image we have. It’s an absolute disgrace. We have a crisis, it’s beyond crisis, we have an emergency,” said Fr Peter McVerry on Radio1 news.
He said that he backs Minister Alan Kelly and that rent controls and increased rent supplement need to be introduced.
“Clearly what the Government is doing is not working, that’s the bottom line. We had 60 families a month becoming homeless at the start of this year and in July/August/September, it was 73 families, and it is getting worse and worse and worse and the Government is fiddling around and bickering.”
The Cold Weather Initiative will provide 195 beds for individuals, 55 units for families and couples and plans for a further 80 rooms for families.
“The Cold Weather Initiative is planning to provide additional homeless accommodation to over 500 people between now and Christmas. That in itself is a scandalous reflection of the failure by Government to protect those most at risk in Irish society,” said Pat Doyle, CEO of the Peter McVerry Trust.
In the first nine months of 2015, the homeless sector in Dublin has moved 729 people out of homelessness which was an increase of over 200 on the same period last year.
“Despite that increase and despite the 271 new beds added to the homeless system in Dublin last winter we face a situation where we need to add an even larger number this winter,” said Pat Doyle.
He called on the Government to heed the many charities who want an increase in rent supplement rates, immediate rent certainty, and more rapid provision of modular and traditional housing.
“All Government Ministers must listen to homeless agencies and proactively engage to help tackle the emergency. People at risk and those experiencing homelessness need to see real leadership and a lot less political point scoring,” he said.
Pat Doyle paid tribute to the work of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) in putting together the extra accommodation.
“The DRHE have done an excellent job in securing additional capacity in extremely difficult circumstances. The ability to secure large volumes of additional bed capacity in the current climate is an extremely difficult process and the DRHE have managed to find capacity for over 500 people and their work in helping achieve that must be recognised,” he said.
The Digital Hub in Dublin’s Liberties is one of the buildings that has been identified by DRHE to be converted to a night refuge for up to 100 homeless people.
The building will be used on a temporary basis to provide dedicated additional beds and will be supported by Catholic charity Crosscare with Dublin City Council holding overall operational responsibility.
The Peter McVerry Trust is another organisation providing a variety of extra housing for the Cold Weather Initiative including a family unit which will accommodate 14 families.