Housing rights campaign will grow in months ahead, vow homeless families

Campaign to seek rent controls, social housing and end to ‘no rent allowance’ ads

Ruth Coppinger: Government must act immediately on housing crisis. Photograph: Eric Luke

Ruth Coppinger: Government must act immediately on housing crisis. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

A national housing rights campaign will

intensify in coming weeks and months, a number of homeless families and political activists have said, following a protest at the weekend against the spiralling homelessness crisis.

Up to 50 people gathered in torrential rain outside Dublin City Hall on Saturday, among them a number of homeless children. The protest was organised by two mothers, Tamara Kearns and Gwen Connell, whose families have become homeless in recent months.

Describing the protest as “symbolic at this stage, to start a bigger and better campaign that the politicians will have to listen to”, Ms Kearns and Ms Connell said the housing campaign’s aims would be “rent controls, the building of new homes and an end to discrimination against people on rent allowance”.

The protest was supported by the Anti-Austerity Alliance, which is running candidates in the local and European elections. An AAA spokeswoman said housing was the “number one election issue”.

Emergency accommodation

There were a number of parents there with young children all of who said they had become homeless following either rent increases or termination of their leases because landlords wanted to take back possession of their house or apartment. They were currently in hotels or other emergency accommodation.

Latest figures from the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) indicate there are more than 180 adults with dependent children in hotel accommodation. They comprise more than 1,350 individuals, the majority of them children.

The number of families with children in emergency accommodation is increasing steadily. In November 2013, there were 128 adults with children in emergency accommodation.

In a recent interview with The Irish Times, Dr Dáithí Downey, deputy director of the DRHE said the issue of family homelessness in the capital was “bloody awful” and was going to get worse.

‘Old friends’

Among those at Saturday’s protest was Ms Kearns’s daughter, Stacey, who had asked her mother if she could speak with her. She told the crowd: “My name is Stacey. I am six. I am homeless. I had to move school. I miss my old friends. I don’t like where I am. It’s scary. It’s not fun. I can’t play outside. I want to go home.”

The Kearns family, having lost their home last October, are now in emergency apartment accommodation. Ms Kearns’s husband works, “in the motor trade” and so the family is not entitled to rent supplement. His hours have been reduced over the past year, however, and with the rent increase they were not able to sustain their tenancy.

Councillor Ruth Coppinger of the AAA said Government needed to act immediately and radically, and to recognise there was a housing crisis.

“They have cut rent allowance for families, while at the same time rents are increasing massively. They must implement rent controls and end the discrimination by many landlords against tenants receiving rent allowance.”

Paul Murphy MEP, also of the AAA, said the fact, as revealed in The Irish Times on Saturday, that Dublin City Council would see its spend on social housing almost halve next year, to €44.5 million, and would build just 35 new houses, indicated government was “not recognising the magnitude of the housing crisis”.