18% rise in numbers using homeless service

The problem of homelessness is continuing to grow with Focus Ireland reporting an 18% increase in the number of people using its support services this year.

More and more families are also at risk of losing their homes, as the charity said the number of people seeking housing advice over difficulties in paying mortgages and rent has almost doubled in 2013.

Focus Ireland said the findings showed the need for more effective measures to address the risk of increased numbers of people facing homelessness due to the recession and to increase the number of affordable homes.

The charity’s chief executive Joyce Loughnan claimed 3,000 housing units are needed to cater for the problem of long-term homelessness.

She expressed concern that a majority of homeless people remained in B&Bs or other accommodation for up to two years, despite improvements in the quality of emergency accommodation.

At its annual conference in Dublin yesterday, Focus Ireland said 9,237 people availed of its support services for the homeless so far this year compared to 7,819 during all of 2012.

In addition, the number of people seeking its housing advice services rose from 2,973 last year to 4,248 in the first 10 months of 2013.

The number of families being made homeless in Dublin had reached 173 this year, with the monthly average doubling to 16. “That’s five children every week losing their homes,” said Ms Loughnan.

The charity published a study which recommends a new approach to moving people out of homelessness by assisting them to secure private rented accommodation. It is piloting a scheme in Cork which allows landlords to obtain a fair market rent.

Ms Loughnan accused Nama of failing to deliver on its promise to make 2,000 social housing units available.

However, a Nama spokesperson said the agency was fully committed to playing its part in providing homes for people who needed them.

He said Nama had identified and made available over 4,000 houses and apartments for social housing purposes to local authorities and the housing agency. But it is understood about 2,000 have been deemed unsuitable or are still to be assessed.

Nama said it had delivered 475 housing units for social housing to date with a target of 600 by the end of the year, while the remaining 1,400 properties are subject to ongoing discussion with approved housing bodies.

In addition, Nama said Focus Ireland had rejected 136 properties on the basis they did not meet specific requirements in various developments in Dublin, Cork and Kildare whose details it had provided to the charity.

Meanwhile, Enda Kenny has insisted he is the only Taoiseach to have ever gone on the streets to speak to homeless people about their lives.

Mr Kenny became embroiled in heated Dáil exchanges with Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald after she criticised government inaction in the face of a dramatic rise in rough sleeping.

After the Taoiseach told the opposition TD he had spoken to a man the other night who was “on the streets” for a few weeks after a row with his spouse, Ms McDonald accused Mr Kenny of “talking out of both sides of his mouth” and spinning a “yarn”.

The Taoiseach hit back saying that he was the first head of Government to seek out homeless people.

“Name me a predecessor of mine in this position who has taken time to go down the streets and talk to these people.

“If the deputy thinks that it is just a yarn to say that a person tells me where he or she hides a sleeping bag and bits and pieces during the course of the day, if Deputy McDonald believes that this is a kind of smart alec remark, then it is beneath even her to do that.”

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