Three of the country’s charities are launching a major appeal asking for householders to donate some or all of their Irish Water refunds to help those who are homeless.
As Irish Water gears up to issue the cheques in the coming weeks and months, Focus Ireland, the Simon Community, and the Peter McVerry Trust have joined forces to establish the Refund Project, aimed at diverting the water charges refunds to tackle the housing crisis.
The exact details as to how people might be able to donate some or all of their refund has yet to be finalised, but it is understood there will be an online option and that talks are continuing with banks in relation to facilitating an easier method of lodging cheques directly to the Refund Project.
A special oversight group, chaired by the former head of the Workplace Relations Commission, Kieran Mulvey, will oversee the project.
The final details will be outlined as soon as the legislation allowing the cheques to be issued by Irish Water has been passed in the Oireachtas.
Pressure on parliamentarians to speed up that process is now likely to grow, with Irish Water stating they are ready to issue cheques as soon as the necessary legislation is passed.
The state body said that cheques are to be issued to 989,000 customers and that an initial rate of 30,000 cheques could be issued every day.
The most recent homeless figures, outlining the situation at the end of September, showed another record number of people homeless across the country.
Figures published by the Department of Housing showed 8,374 people accessing emergency accommodation nationwide, including 3,124 children.
While there has been some progress made in reducing the number of homeless families in Dublin, the most recent figures showed the overall number of homeless families increased nationally in September by 89, and the number of families in hotels and B&Bs was 690.
Refunding domestic charges will cost approximately €173m in repayments and the Water Services Bill 2017 which will trigger the repayments passed committee stage in the Dáil on October 25.
Final stages are scheduled to be taken in the Dáil on the week beginning November 6 and if passed, the bill will then progress to the Seanad.
In a joint statement, the three charities said the water charges refunds would help some people make ends meet, but the appeal was aimed at the more fortunate.
“The issue of homelessness is very complex, but everybody has a role to play – government, charities and society,” said the charities.
“It’s important to stress that this will not lessen in any way the responsibility of government and policy makers to drive forward the national homelessness strategy.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved