The Government’s new €3.8bn social-housing strategy has come too late
for another 60 children who have been made homeless in Dublin in the space of
The number of children sleeping in hotels,
hostels and other emergency accommodation in the capital increased from 680 in
October to 741 in November, according to new figures released by the Dublin
Region Homeless Executive (DRHE).
The latest disturbing figures are revealed
just days after the Government last week unveiled plans to build 35,000 new
social-housing units. It also announced that a new housing-assistance payment
will be made available to 75,000 households over the next six years.
However, the vast majority of these
children are becoming homeless today because their parents can’t afford to pay
A spokeswoman for the DRHE, which provides
services for homeless across the four local authorities in the capital, told
the Sunday Independent: “Access to housing has been the single biggest
challenge facing the resolution of homelessness . . . the return to building
social housing is vital, in order to ensure that the Dublin local authorities
can move people from emergency accommodation back into independent
Over the past year, the majority of
families who contacted South Dublin County Council, Fingal County Council and
Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, in a housing crisis situation were
previously renting in the private sector.
“The primary causes at the household
level are economic determinants related to over-indebtedness, reduced economic
resilience, price inflation and income inadequacy,” the spokeswoman added.
Doherty, a spokesman for homeless charity the Peter McVerry Trust, welcomed the
new social-housing strategy, but warned progress depends on
“willingness” to increase the rent supplement or the new
housing-assistance payment scheme.
“It comes back to affordability and
meeting the market value of rents in the private sector, if it doesn’t there is
going to be a huge challenge,” he told the Sunday Independent.
“Anything that is delivered around
social housing needs to be ring-fenced, where possible, for people in homeless
services because they are the most vulnerable on the social -housing list.
“If you examine the need that exists,
people in emergency accommodation, sleeping rough and people in six-month
placement in homeless services harbour the greatest need. At the moment they
are being provided with shelter and not housing.”
Despite “major efforts” by the
Dublin local authorities, an increase in “new homeless families” has
become an “acute feature” of the crisis and demand for emergency
accommodation is constant.
The DRHE spokeswoman said: “We are
working to absolute capacity on a daily basis to ensure that families can be
prevented from becoming homeless and that we can move them back into
independent living as soon as possible.” She added that she “strongly
urges” all families to contact their services “as soon as they feel
their tenancy may be at risk”.
However, the current shortage of suitable
housing and added time constraints means many children, families and single
people end up in emergency accommodation for longer than six months.
Despite being a last resort, hotel rooms
are now being relied upon to prevent families from sleeping rough. In 2012, the
local authorities in the capital spent €455,736 to house the homeless in
hotels. Last year, their expenditure on hotels almost trebled to €1,356,281.
The estimated cost for 2014 is in excess of €4.5m.
In response to this, the DRHE set up the
Tenancy Protection Service on behalf of housing charity Threshold, whereby a
number of practical interventions take place, including their dedicated
freephone service on 1800 454 454.
More than 2,000 tenant families contacted
the Tenancy Protection Service from June to October this year. Of these, 857
families have been assessed as being at risk of losing their tenancy. Almost
170 have been offered “additional rent subvention paid in order to secure
their tenancy” in agreement with the Department of Social Protection.
According to the DRHE, an approved increase
of €200-€300 per month is the average amount required to “keep a tenant
family in their home”.
Last week, the DRHE revealed a 20pc
increase in the number of people sleeping rough in Dublin over the past year.
It identified 168 individuals sleeping rough across the Dublin region during
their official street count on November 11.
Those sleeping on the capital’s streets –
both Irish and foreign nationals – included 130 men, 16 women and 22
“unknown” homeless, ranging from ages 18 to 61.
On the night of the count 1,526 adults were
accommodated in emergency accommodation across the Dublin region. Arrangements
are now in place to provide a further 152 emergency beds for homeless people by
the end of 2014.