Strengthening of right to housing in Constitution among fresh demands to alleviate homelessness

Strengthening of right to housing in Constitution among fresh demands to alleviate homelessness

A strengthening of the right to housing in the Constitution and strict limits on how long a family spends in emergency accommodation are among fresh demands to alleviate homelessness.

The recommendations are among 20 from the Oireachtas Committee on Children report and come after homelessness numbers exceed 10,000 for eight consecutive months.

While other countries have limits on the time families, especially children, should spend in hotels or B&Bs, those without a home can often spend months here in such emergency accommodation.

Furthermore, medical reports have confirmed children have mobility problems from not being able to move around and sometimes have eating disorders from being reliant on pouch foods.

Committee chairman Alan Farrell said: “This cannot be allowed to continue and we, as a society must act to prevent long-term social and emotional damage to children, as a result of homelessness.”

The report suggests the Constitution should include a right to housing and that there should be a review of homeless housing needs; that the needs of sick children in emergency accommodation be identified and healthcare access guaranteed; and that there be a development of a national family homelessness strategy.

The issue triggered debate in the Dáil, where Labour leader Brendan Howlin attacked Tánaiste Simon Coveney and demanded specific plans be drawn up to help homeless children, especially with an estimated 4,000 now on Irish streets.

“The lives of children who are homeless and in those centres are being blighted, and in a way that might take some time to recover from, if ever.

The way to deal with that is through the enactment of legislation which gives a right to children.

Focus Ireland Director of Advocacy Mike Allen said he welcomed the committee recommendations, stating: "Focus Ireland has repeatedly called for a cast iron deadline that no family or individual be allowed to remain homeless for longer than six months."

Families stay a maximum of seven days in emergency accommodation in Scotland.

Barnardos welcomed the recommendations, as well as similar findings from the housing committee. One-night only stays for those without a roof over their head should also be stopped, said CEO Suzanne Connolly.

“The system of self-accommodation and one night only is completely unacceptable. No parent should have to walk the streets with their children waiting to get into their accommodation for a night, a situation made more deplorable by the fact that the weather is getting colder,” she said.

The Simon Communities also welcomed the suggestion for a right to housing.

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