Policy decisions forcing people into homelessness - Focus Ireland

1,275 children in 607 families in emergency accommodation in Dublin last month


Government decisions were directly forcing people into homelessness, the founder of the main charity in Dublin working with homeless families has said.

Sr Stanislaus Kennedy, who established the Focus Ireland 30 years ago, was speaking at the publication of its annual report.

She said the charity’s warnings in recent years had not been listened to, and decisions such as that not to increase rent supplement were forcing low-income families out of their private rented accommodation.

In 2012, she said eight families a month were becoming homeless. This has risen to an average of 70 a month in Dublin alone in 2015.

The latest figures from then Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) show that in the week of August 24th-30th, there were 607 families in emergency accommodation, comprising 832 adults and 1,275 children. Some 425 children, in 203 families, were in hotels, usually in a single room and usually without access to cooking or food storage facilities .

The charity said there were “simple actions” that could be taken quickly to prevent families, currently in homes, ending up in emergency accommodation.

Its two main demands are that the Department of Social Protection increases rent supplement to better meet market rents, and that the Department of the Environment deliver in its promise of rent certainty.

In the longer term, it is seeking a commitment to the provision of 7,000 new social housing units per year over the five-year term of the next Government.

“Focus Ireland acknowledge that in this area the Government has published and is committed to implementing the social housing strategy 2020 with an ‘upfront exchequer commitment’ of €1.5 billion. But we need to see bricks and mortar being delivered from that strategy,” said a spokesman.

The NGO gave a cautious welcome to proposals from DRHE to move hundreds of families out of emergency hotel accommodation with the provision of modular housing. Any such plan, it said, must be implemented carefully, taking into account the location of potential sites, but delivered with as little delay as possible.

Sr Stan said the government could, “with the stroke of a pen” could increase rent supplement and stem the flow of families into homelessness.

“What is often forgotten is that these families do not just appear out of thin air into homelessness.

“They are in homes now as I speak but yet without action at least 70 more families will lose their homeless this month and be homeless.”