BThe Government needs to show the same urgency to the homelessness crisis that it showed to the foot and mouth crisis, a campaign group has said.
House the Homeless made the call as it began a symbolic hunger strike in Cork to highlight the issue.
Some ten members of the group began a 24 hour hunger strike outside Cork City Hall at 10am. They urged the government to set up an emergency task force to tackle the problem.
Diarmaid O Cadhla of House the Homeless urged the Government to show the same commitment to tackling the issue as a previous government did to tackle the 2001 foot and mouth scare.
“When the foot and mouth scare happened all the relevant government departments were brought together in this emergency commission along with academics and scientists and they all sat around the table and said ‘How are we going to sort this out - what’s needed?’.
“The whole country was mobilised, sporting events were rescheduled and there was a real sense of drive and urgency to solve the problem, the same approach needs to be taken to homelessness because this is a much more important crisis because it involves people.”
According to Mr O Cadhla, there is sufficient housing stock in the country to solve the current homeless crisis but it requires a change of approach by government along with the enactment of new legislation to provide accommodation for those without homes.
“There are actually more housing units available than are required to cater for all those without a home - it’s a case of moving people A to B and we are sorted but it would need emergency legislation and a change of attitude and that’s what we are trying to highlight here today.
Mr O Cadhla said the hunger strike is also aimed at promoting World Homeless Day on Saturday when a rally will be held in Cork city centre and a candlelit vigil will be held outside Cork City Hall .
Among the Cork charities backing today's hunger strike are Cork Penny Dinners and Cork Simon whose most recent figures show the problem of people sleeping rough in the city is worsening.
According to Cork Simon, the number of people sleeping rough in the city and being supported by its Outreach Team in the first nine months of the year has reached 285 people which marks a 25 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2014.
“We recorded 83 people sleeping rough in September 2015 alone - an alarming 54 oercent increase compared to August 2015. September 2015 saw an average of over 12 people per night sleeping rough,” said Cork Simon
“Between January and September this year our Outreach Team supported more people than ever before who have no choice but to stay with friends, 179 people, a 40 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2014 while we have met 86 per cent surviving in squats , a 76 per cent increase on 2014.”.