Opposition TDs talk tough on homelessness crisis

Statistics give expression to terrible sight of people sleeping in doorways in capital city

Fr Peter McVerry’s trust is providing shelter for    265 homeless people. Photograph:  Paddy Whelan

Fr Peter McVerry’s trust is providing shelter for 265 homeless people. Photograph: Paddy Whelan

Wed, Dec 4, 2013, 01:00

It was a grim story of post-Celtic Tiger Ireland. Statistics gave expression to the terrible sight of people sleeping in doorways in the capital city.

Sinn Féin’s Dessie Ellis highlighted the deaths of two homeless men: Gerard Donnelly (36), who was burned to death in Dublin’s Phoenix Park last Friday, and Paul Doyle (33), who died of hypothermia while sleeping rough in Bray, Co Wicklow, last December.

“I take this opportunity to express my sympathies to the family of Paul Doyle,” he said. “I also convey my sympathies on the death of the man who was sleeping rough in the Phoenix Park.”

Ellis said about 139 people were sleeping rough in Dublin on November 12th, an increase of 45 in just six months. “The figure does not include the hundreds in emergency accommodation, including the 265 given shelter by the Peter McVerry Trust,’’ he added. “Approximately 1,400 people are in emergency accommodation every night in Dublin, and the homelessness rate has increased by 18 per cent in a year.”

He said staff in Dublin Simon Community had told him they were operating at absolute capacity.

“It is having a damaging effect on the morale of the very good people who dedicate their time to that organisation and to the fight against homelessness,” Ellis added. “People are sleeping rough in cold and dangerous conditions, at risk of exposure and vulnerable to assault.”

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said that any government that could not put roofs over the heads of its citizens, and ensure they were not obliged to sleep in the street, was not worthy of the name.

“For the 2½ years I have been in the Dáil, the issue I have raised most consistently is that of the housing and homelessness crisis,” he added.

“I have said repeatedly that the policies of the Government are leading directly to homelessness because they not only fail to address the problem but are, in fact, making it worse.”

‘Platitudes’

Boyd Barrett highlighted the case of Ann Heffernan, a mother of two children who worked all her life and lost her job last year because of the recession. “She will be evicted tomorrow because her rent has gone up to €1,300

while the rent cap is €1,000. She cannot find anywhere to live.”

“What are these people supposed to do ?’’ asked Boyd Barrett. “Platitudes about ending homelessness and pie-in-the-sky plans will not cut it.”

Minister of State Jan O’Sullivan referred to the recent announcement of €100 million for social housing next year. “The growing number of people sleeping rough on the streets of our capital city is unacceptable,” she said. “The figures released today, showing a marked increase in rough sleeping in Dublin, are troubling.”

Indeed.

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