If the Government is serious is about ending homelessness by 2030 it must ensure that, as a “first step”, its Budget next Tuesday includes measures to ensure it does not get any worse, a leading homelessness charity has warned.
Amid deepening concern about the likelihood of rising homelessness this winter, Focus Ireland say the Budget needs to include commitments to increase Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) rates, strengthen protections for private-rented sector tenants and dramatically increase social housing for especially vulnerable cohorts like single adults, lone parents and large families.
Mike Allen, director of advocacy, said: "Our advice and information services across the country are all reporting a huge increase in contacts from families and individuals who are at risk of losing their homes due to their inability to afford rising rents.
“The fact that there has been no increase in the level of rent subsidy since 2016 has forced many low-income households into grinding poverty and debt. We are deeply concerned that without additional support, many will be forced into homelessness in the coming months.”
Speaking on Sunday, World Homelessness Day, he called for a review of core HAP rates; funding to allow greater discretion in these rates for local authorities providing HAP to vulnerable households facing homelessness; increased resources to tackle poverty among lone-parent families and beefed up protections for tenants in the private rented sector.
Lone-parent families are highly over-represented in homeless population, says Focus Ireland and several government policies are “inadvertently pushing [THEM]towards homelessness”.
It is calling for an increase in the amount lone parents may earn, from €165 to €200, before their support payment is cut, an extension in eligibility for the jobseekers transition payment until the youngest child reaches 18 and a review of the eligibility rules for student maintenance grants to ensure lone parents are not excluded because of their welfare supports.
Many families headed by lone parents, in emergency accommodation, are fleeing domestic violence and would be better supported in refuges. More refuge spaces must be resourced, says the charity.
It is also calling for a ring-fenced fund to build more one-bed and four-bed homes, as single people and large families remain in homelessness longer than other households.
It wants Government to draw down European funding to establish a national Housing First programme for 60 young people, and to allocate €3.6 million for a similar scheme for families - initially for 90 families - who have been homeless for two years or more.