By Ann Marie Foley - 23 February, 2017
One child became homeless every five hours in Dublin during the month of January.
Focus Ireland has highlighted this figure from the latest Government statistics on homelessness which show that there were 7,167 homeless adults and children in January compared to 7,148 in December – and a rise of a quarter since this time last year (5,715).
Although there was a small decline of 33 families who were homelessness nationwide in January, the total number of homeless families is still up by a third on this time last year (from 884 to 1,172).
Focus Ireland pointed out that there are huge numbers of families still losing their homes, with the charity’s own new monthly figures for Dublin showing that 87 families with 151 children became homeless in January.
“The success of Focus Ireland staff, the Dublin Region Homeless Executive and other agencies in supporting families into new homes continues to be undermined by the failure to tackle the root cause of the problem and prevent new families being made homeless in droves,” said Mike Allen, Director of Advocacy, Focus Ireland.
The charity stated that the largest cause of homelessness is property being taken out of the rental market, either by the landlord selling up or using the property for their own family. Legislation proposed by opposition parties in the Dáil to stop evictions of tenants in buy-to-let properties that are being sold was voted down last year.
“We believe that if that legislation had been passed as many as 25 of the families who became homeless in January would still have a home,” stated Mike Allen.
He said that there was huge public interest in and compassion for homelessness in the run-up to Christmas, and for the number of children who had to live in a hotel room or B&B at that time, yet the problem continued.
“We need to maintain the huge public recognition that what is happening to these families is wrong, and the solutions that the Government have put in place are too piecemeal and too slow,” said Mike Allen.
Also this week – in a debate in the Dáil’s Joint Committee on Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government – another homelessness and housing charity, Peter McVerry Trust, called on the government to immediately tackle the problem of the almost 200,000 empty homes across the country.
“There are 13 empty homes for every homeless adult in our cities. It is simply not acceptable that we have 50,000 empty homes in areas with such acute housing need and this must be urgently addressed by government,” said Pat Doyle, CEO, Peter McVerry Trust.
In an article in The Journal, Pat Doyle wrote that the empty homes provide an “unprecedented opportunity” for the government to effectively end homelessness in Ireland.
He stated that the government has the ability to house every person who is homeless in Ireland today within the next 12 months.
The Peter McVerry Trust also expressed concern about the spike in the number of single people becoming homeless. From late December to late January, the number of single people in homelessness rose by 163.
“That monthly increase is significantly larger than any increase recorded during 2016 and points to the huge difficulty many single people are facing when they try to keep up payments on their existing homes or to secure affordable accommodation,” said Francis Doherty, Head of Communications, Peter McVerry Trust.
There are almost 500 more adults (without dependents) in homelessness compared with January 2016 – an increase of almost 20 per cent in the last year.
He said that new housing supply must recognise the huge need for single and two-person units and not just three and four-bed homes for larger families, which are the preferred option for private builders.
Peter McVerry Trust is hosting an Empty Homes Conference on 9 March in Croke Park Conference Centre.