Focus Ireland welcomes the Homeless Summit but stressed it must deliver an effective crisis response along with firm action on long-term solutions the charity has called for repeatedly in the past.
Focus Ireland delivered a submission to Minister Alan Kelly at the homeless forum today outlining 10 key actions required to end the growing homeless crisis in Ireland.
The leading charity welcomed the special summit as it brings more urgency to the growing problems caused by years of housing failure and cutbacks to vital services across youth, health, mental health and education services.
However, Focus Ireland said it is vital that the correct actions are taken and the crisis is not dealt with by a “knee-jerk” response.
Going into the forum Mike Allen of Focus Ireland said: “The death of Jonathan Corrie is a tragedy, he is not the first person sleeping rough this year to die but his death has rightly touched many. One way to honour the memory of all those who have died in such tragic circumstances is to respond with reaffirmed commitment and direct action that will not only solve the immediate crisis but also cut the risk of more tragedies in the future.”
At the forum Focus Ireland presented a submission outlining 10 key actions that need to be undertaken to address both the current crisis situation and to also prevent homelessness by keeping people in their existing homes. Focus Ireland stressed that international experience shows that “sound-bite solutions” will not solve the complex problems and many times only serve to make the problem worse. The charity said it has been working to advance the solutions it outlines in its submission for many years and while some action has been taken not enough has yet been done.
Focus Ireland stressed that we now need the political will and the resources delivered to end homelessness. The charity said there needs to be a set of interlocking strategies covering the long-term problems as well as the short-term crisis.
Mr. Allen added: “An Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaking in the Dáil last night said: ‘‘If rent supplement is increased across the board, the only beneficiaries will be landlords.” Focus Ireland said the Taoiseach is clearly wrong in his claim as over 800 children and their families have become homeless this year and the single largest reason for the vast majority is that their rent shot up and there was no increase in their rent supplement so they eventually lost their home and became homeless. The charity said that an immediate raise in rent supplement to match market rents would prevent more families losing the homes and becoming homeless in the last 3 weeks before Christmas.”
Highlighting that Homelessness is a complex problem reflecting underinvestment in the fabric of Irish society during the boom and the crash in youth services, mental health services and other crucial supports. Focus Ireland also called for responses to the structural issues which are the root cause of homelessness.
Mr Allen noted that: ‘As a society we have a duty to ensure people have a home. One where they have the support they need to deal with problems they may be struggling with. We know this approach works as Focus Ireland sees it work day in day out we need this opportunity to be available for more people.”
The actions Focus Ireland highlighted in Focus Ireland’s submission are:
Actions to tackle the immediate situation
1) Ensure that there is sufficient emergency accommodation so that no one should have to sleep rough for lack of a bed. Enhance the street presence of the Housing First team and re-organise access to emergency accommodation to eliminate the endless phone calls people must make to secure a bed.
2) Increase Rent Supplement payments so that they match actual rents across the country and keep people in their existing homes.
3) Introduce rent regulation measures to freeze rents until the current housing and homeless crisis is over. Also deliver tax changes for landlords so that it is feasible for them to rent and ensure they are not penalised by a rent freeze making it unfeasible for them to rent out their properties.
4) Introduce legislative protection for the tenants of the 35,000 buy to let properties that are at risk of repossession.
5) Address the financial needs of young people on a reduced rate of social welfare trapped in homelessness.
Actions to deliver housing:
6) Drive the programme of bringing derelict/void social housing back into use and continue to drive the improved allocation of social housing to deliver homes for people who have are long-term homeless
7) Deliver the Social Housing Strategy targets in the timeframe promised in the plan.
8) Find out why the unoccupied rate’ for Dublin housing is over 7% against the international average of 4%, and take any actions necessary to make eligible empty property available
Deeper actions to rebuild the social infrastructure
9) Guarantee that an appropriate home is provided to any young person leaving State Care as required so that they do not have to start their adult life in homeless services. They should also have access to supports if required to help them move on to independent living.
10) Increase resources for mental health services and drug and alcohol rehab services to eliminate waiting lists.
Media information: Roughan Mac Namara: 086 85 15 117