Tackling the homelessness crisis
Sir, – I refer to the comments made by the recently reappointed chair of the Housing Agency, Conor Skehan, as outlined in the January 2nd edition (“Families in emergency housing ‘may be gaming the system’, says Skehan”).
As chief executive of Depaul, one of the largest homelessness charities in the State, helping nearly 900 vulnerable people North and South of Ireland each day, and as someone with over 20 years of experience working to help those struggling with homelessness across the UK and Ireland, I must respond to the recent comments on housing, homelessness and the voluntary sector made by Dr Skehan.
I fully agree that organisations receiving a significant amount of State funding should have performance targets, clear accountability and transparency.
Targets are an imperative in the voluntary sector in order for the best possible outcomes to be provided to those most in need. That is why such structures are already in place. Depaul has set targets as per agreement with Dublin City Council and other partnership agencies for the services that we provide across Dublin. The organisation is committed to good governance and transparency and is registered with Charities Institute Ireland.
The HSE imposed budget cuts incrementally on services from 2009-2013, funding which has not been reinstated since; meanwhile the targets have remained as initially set prior to the cuts.
Homelessness is a complicated issue, and a multifaceted discussion needs to be had around it, including on how to provide services in a cost-effective manner. However, arguments and statements made without supporting evidence do little but distract from the vital work that needs to be done.
At the centre of our homelessness crisis are a lack of housing, a low stock of social housing and exorbitant rents.
Whether we are judging the need for building homes by the estimate provided by the Housing Agency of 20,000 to 25,000, or by the significantly larger estimate by Daft.ie and TCD economist Ronan Lyons of 50,000 units, it is clear that more houses are needed than are under way.
The estimated 3,800 predicted social houses to be built in 2018 falls short of what is needed and leaves providers of services for those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness with the task of helping those that have fallen victim to the crisis.
Homelessness charities like Depaul are dedicated to providing essential services to the most vulnerable in society. We are fully committed to working with the Government and others to play our part in realising the targets set in the Rebuilding Ireland action plan. – Yours, etc,