Minister for Housing needs to look at constitution ‘for right to home’

Focus Ireland advocacy director Mike Allen says homeless figures continue to rise

Since February 2019 the figures show an increase of 41 in the total number of homeless, of whom 37 were children, setting a new record level. Photograph: Eric Luke

Since February 2019 the figures show an increase of 41 in the total number of homeless, of whom 37 were children, setting a new record level. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

The head of advocacy at homeless charity Focus Ireland has called on the Minister for Housing to look at the right to a home provision in the Constitution.

Mike Allen has said that while the Government and local authorities are working hard, the numbers of people entering homeless continues to rise.

He was responding to the latest homeless figures. Data from the Department of Housing published on Tuesday show there were 10,305 people homeless, including 3,821 children, in the week between March 25th and March 31st. This compares with 9,681 homeless, including 3,646 children in March 2018.

Since February 2019 the figures show an increase of 41 in the total number of homeless, of whom 37 were children, setting a new record level.

Mr Allen told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland that the situation is getting worse. “This sounds like numbers, but this is important news. These are men, women and children.”

He called on the Government to outline an exact plan to deal with the homeless situation. “The Government says there is the Rebuilding Ireland programme, that sometime in the future there will be houses, but the Government is currently unable to tell people when in the future things will look better.”

Mr Allen pointed out that IBEC, the business and employer organisation, had said there is a need for 36,000 new homes every year “in order to stand still”, but that 18,000 will be built this year with 25,000 in future years.

“Even when the target is reached the situation is still getting worse.”

The “mismatch” between what is being built and what is needed is getting worse, he warned.

“This problem is so severe. There is a need for momentum about landlords being allowed to evict their tenants. We can’t allow landlords to evict tenants during a crisis.

“The Minister needs to be much more ambitious. He needs to look at what’s in the Constitution.”

Minister of State at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Damien English said the Government will consider “all options” to cope with the homeless crisis including an examination of the Constitution.

A priority is looking at legislation that will protect tenants, he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

At present options such as a moratorium on evictions are not possible under the Constitution, he said. “We will consider all options.”

The bottom line is more houses will have to be built. “We have to increase supply,” he added. “No one is happy with these figures.”

He acknowledged that it looks like the Government’s Rebuilding Ireland plan is not working. “If we stick to this we will have a solution.”

The focus is to stop people entering homelessness, he saidn noting that of the 173 Dublin families who recently presented as homeless, 91 were provided with a housing solution within a week, 43 who were in hotels left them and 82 are now in emergency accommodation.

“We are finding solutions quite quickly now. We are working earlier now to prevent people getting into homelessness. The solutions are working.”