Fact almost 10,000 people homeless a ‘blight on society’

Rally held in Dublin hears criticism of Government’s lack of urgency on housing issues

People taking part in a  protest organised by the National Homeless and Housing Coalition in Dublin on Saturday. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw.

People taking part in a protest organised by the National Homeless and Housing Coalition in Dublin on Saturday. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw.

 

Figures showing that almost 10,000 people were homeless across the State at the end of February are a “shame and a blight on our society”, a housing rally in Dublin has heard.

The protest, organised by the National Homeless and Housing Coalition, saw participants march from the Garden of Remembrance to Custom House Quay.

It was told that trade unions would mobilise to press for the building of 10,000 public homes every year for the next five years.

The latest homelessness figures, for the month of February, show almost 10,000 individuals are homeless with 3,755 children among the total.

Kevin Callanan, the vice-president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu), described the figures as a “shame and a blight on our society”.

He told the crowd that Congress had set up a committee to campaign for an end to homelessness. It will have three aims: The first is for the Government to declare a homelessness emergency. The second is for the building of 10,000 homes by the State every year for five years, and the third is for a referendum giving everybody a right to a home.

People taking part in a protest organised by the National Homeless and Housing Coalition in Dublin on Saturday. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw.
People taking part in a protest organised by the National Homeless and Housing Coalition in Dublin on Saturday. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw.

“Where stands the Republic if they can’t vindicate this basic right. What is liberty without social solidarity and equality?” he asked.

“We need a national policy once and for all to make the country’s national resources work for the people.”

‘Drawing board’

The rally was also addressed by homelessness campaigner Fr Peter McVerry, who said the Government had failed to address the housing crisis in an adequate way.

“Government must go back to the drawing board, look at the policies that they are currently operating to address the homeless and housing problem,” he said.

Fr McVerry maintained the Government was doing very little while house prices and rents were increasing all the time.

He suggested it should adopt radical measures including making it illegal for landlords, bankers and vulture funds to making anybody homeless “except in very exceptional circumstances”.

He also recommended that the Government must draw up an inventory of empty properties and sites and bring them back into use.

People taking part in a protest organised by the National Homeless and Housing Coalition in Dublin on Saturday. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw.
People taking part in a protest organised by the National Homeless and Housing Coalition in Dublin on Saturday. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw.

Social housing needs to be built “on a much more massive scale” than at present, he said.

“There is no sense of urgency. There does not seem to be any sense of a commitment to tackling this which the Minister for Finance (Paschal Donohoe) said was the most serious social problem this country has faced in a generation.”

The rally heard from Tracey Hanby, a nurse, who said she has been at risk of homelessness for the last seven years.

She said she was part of a “new demographic” of those facing bankruptcy and homelessness and has arrears of €70,000 to the bank. She described herself as “almost homeless”.

A crowd of approximately 1,000 people gathered in Customs House for the rally, although organisers claimed 15,000 participated in the march from the Garden of Remembrance .

Siptu national campaigns and equality organiser Karan O’Loughlin, who compered the event, said it was now up to the parties of the left to bring a Bill forward to deal with homelessness.

They want the Bill to be brought before the Dáil in September. She said it needed to include an end to evictions and a freeze on all rents.

“This (the rally) is only the tip of the iceberg for what is coming. Once the politicians of the left line up, we will be targeting other politicians to join us.”