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Housing not shelter is the answer to homelessness

By Susan Gately - 02 October, 2015

Inadequate response to crisis makes McVerry Trust question "whether this Government are committed to helping people in homelessness".

Fr Peter McVerry

Fr Peter McVerry

A leading campaigner for the homeless has warned that more than 6,500 people will be homeless in Ireland by the end of the year unless drastic action eases the crisis.

Fr Peter McVerry, founder of the homeless and housing charity, the Peter McVerry Trust, said the situation had become a national emergency with the numbers sheltering in hostels and hotels expected to have doubled since the start of the year.

As homeless people gathered outside the Dáil on Wednesday to protest about the lack of social accommodation, the charity launched its pre-budget submission to the Government.

It backs plans to build modular housing to ease pressure and demand for social housing, but Fr McVerry said the 150 modular housing units announced by Government to be delivered before Christmas “will not even cover the number of new homeless families for August and September”.

“With this type of inadequate response we have no option but to question whether this Government are committed to helping people in homelessness,” he added.

In its submission, the Peter McVerry Trust called for:

  • new laws to keep rent increases in line with inflation and a hike in the welfare supplements for people moving from homeless services into permanent accommodation. Rates should reflect market changes since 2011, up 25% nationally and 36% in Dublin.
  • €710 euro a month to be paid out to people in need of rent supplement in Dublin with civil servants given the discretion to make higher payments if needed.
  • the reintroduction of bedsits which should be leased to homeless service providers to make rooms available to single, homeless people, single people exiting drug detox and people just out of prison or hospital.
  • a new round of funding to prioritise projects which are “shovel ready” for the early part of next year and for a new emphasis to be put on developing derelict and empty properties.
  • unoccupied short stay apartments to be leased to Dublin City Council for six months of winter to provide safe and secure housing to the homeless rather than using B&Bs.
  • the auditing of unused floor space in cities to see if empty offices can be turned into apartments.
  • a ban on the eviction of tenants when a property they are leasing is sold unless the new owner is to use it as a family home.
  • the appointment of a minister with responsibility for tackling homelessness.
  • enshrining the right to a home in the Constitution.

“We need urgent action to tackle this emergency,” said Pat Doyle CEO of the Peter McVerry Trust.

“The submission is focused on addressing the acute lack of housing provision that we are currently experiencing. We believe that our combination of legislative, financial and policy actions, if implemented in the immediate to short term, will significantly boost efforts to tackle the housing and homeless emergency.”

Concluding, he said that it was homes not shelter that was urgently needed.

“Peter McVerry Trust believes that rapid investment in housing must be prioritised to get people out of homeless accommodation. The crisis of the last few years has seen far too many people languish in emergency accommodation when they should be living in private rental accommodation or social housing. Housing, not shelter, is the answer to this emergency.”

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