Budget day protesters urge emergency action on homeless crisis

100 people joing housing list each month in Dún Laoghaire alone, claims Richard Boyd Barrett

Protesters called for emergency measures to tackle the escalating housing and homeless crisis outside Dáil Éireann today as the Budget was set to be announced.

Politicians, student activists, homeless and people on waiting lists for social housing gathered on Kildare Street ahead of the Budget announcements.

Protester Peter McDonagh said he had been homeless for four years and life was very difficult without a home.

Mr McDonagh (25), said he now lived in a hostel with 38 others and desperately wanted to find an affordable home.

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“There’s no privacy (in the hostel) and I often have to deal with aggressive people. It’s no way to live,” he said. “I’ve done my time on the streets too. It was very, very hard.”

Mr McDonagh said he would love to learn skills he could use to rebuild boarded-up and abandoned houses, and contribute towards reducing the growing problem.

“To get accommodation would mean everything to me. I would be able to get my life back, get a job. Being homeless makes it extremely difficult to get work. I really want to be working,” he said. “I don’t want much, just four walls and a roof.”

Mr McDonagh said he became homeless after a disagreement with a former landlord in private rented accommodation.

He said he worried the benefits coming through the Budget would not make any difference to homeless single men.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett, who was the protest, said the Government budget announcements “did nothing” to help the people currently homeless.

“It was shocking failure to address a disastrous crisis. There’s no emergency measures- it’s not good enough. We needed a very substantial increase in rent allowance as a emergency response and we didn’t get it,” he said.

“The announcement of 2,500 houses next year and €1.5 billion over three years to alleviate the housing crisis won’t even cover houses for new applicants when there is already 90,000 on council housing waiting lists.”

“ The allocation of €10 million for homeless services when €14 million has been cut from homeless services in Dublin City Council alone over the past few years is just another example of the smoke and mirrors in this budget.”

"In Dún Laoghaire alone, 100 new people are joining the list every month - that's over 1,000 per year in just one council area, and those sorts of numbers will be replicated across Dublin and most of the big cities around the country."

Paul Downes, student union president at the Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Dún Laoghaire, said every day students came into their union office looking for help to find affordable accommodation.

“The shortage of rental accommodation means that they leave our office with no hope of finding suitable housing and facing the prospect of an extended period of ‘couch surfing’,” he said.

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown county councillor Karl Gill (People Before Profit) said it was time people stood up to the Government on the issue.

“We are fed up telling this Government about the crisis in housing. About how local authority housing lists are growing, about how the number of people that are sleeping on the streets has sky-rocketed, about how young workers and students are struggling to find somewhere to live and about how landlords discriminate against tenants in receipt of social welfare via the ‘Rent Allowance not Accepted’ sham. All of this seems to have fallen on deaf ears,” he said,

“They [people] want results on housing now.”

Rachel Flaherty

Rachel Flaherty

Rachel Flaherty is an Irish Times journalist