Greater co-operation required on homelessness, says Minister

Kelly calls on departments of Social Protection, Children and Health to focus on issue

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly with Alice Leahy, director of Trust, a charity providing medical and related services for people who are homeless, during a visit to the organisation’s Dublin premises. Photograph: PA

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly with Alice Leahy, director of Trust, a charity providing medical and related services for people who are homeless, during a visit to the organisation’s Dublin premises. Photograph: PA

 

Greater co-operation from other Government departments was needed to tackle the homelessness crisis, Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly has said.

He described the scale of the homelessness crisis as “unprecedented” and said although his department was doing an “awful lot” to address it, he needed more focus on the issue from other departments, including Social Protection, Children and Health.

Mr Kelly also called for more co-operative thinking from all the housing charities, agencies and local authorities.

He reiterated his request for greater co-operation from local authority councillors, particularly those of Dublin City Council.

Speaking after he visited the offices of Trust, a voluntary service for rough sleepers in Dublin, Mr Kelly said since January, about 800 properties had been provided or were in the process of being provided specifically to house homeless families.

Some were locally authority dwellings which had become available as a result of the directive that 50 per cent of all local authority allocations must go to homeless or vulnerable households.

He said 100 properties were coming on stream following advertisements to invite landlords to make their properties available to local authorities, while local authorities were “in the process of identifying in excess of 100 properties they’ll be buying”.

He said a property at Tallaght Cross in Dublin would soon come into use to accommodate homeless families, while 25 further units were being purchased, to accommodate homeless families.

“And more has to be done. I am not saying we have all the solutions but certainly a package has been put together. It continues to be worked on [AS]we continue to look at other solutions. “

The Minister said he would like to see a protocol, operated in Dublin and Cork by the housing charity Threshold in conjunction with the Department of Social Protection, whereby households with children in the private rented sector at risk of losing their home can have their rent supplement increased, extended across the State.

“I would like to see that rolled out across the country as a priority,” Mr Kelly said.

The Minister also said he was planning to bring a proposals to Government in the coming weeks to better regulate rent increases.

He confirmed his Department was also exploring legislation to ensure banks and receivers moving to repossess buy-to-lets, could not evict tenants into homelessness.

“We are looking at how we can bring greater moral responsibility on the banks. I personally believe the banks have to take greater moral responsibility in relation to decisions particularly in the buy-to-let market where circumstances are different.

“We are in an unprecedented situation. We’ve never seen a situation of this scale. It’s not about funding. It’s simply not about funding. As I have said before we do need co-operation, we need co-operation from the agencies, local authorities and other departments.”

He said focus was also needed from the departments of Social Protection, of Children and of Health.

“It’s about how they can work together to intercept vulnerable people and people who are potentially becoming homeless. “

Alice Leahy, founder of Trust, said: “Homelessness is hugely complex and Governments have come and gone. Homelessness isn’t just about housing alone. It’s [also] around mental health issues. So all Government departments need to look at this.”