Family homelessness ‘will worsen’ says Simon Communities of Ireland

The Simon Communities of Ireland have warned the homelessness emergency is only likely to worsen after it has been allowed to proceed “unchecked” in the absence of appropriate short-term responses.

The group launched its 2014 annual report yesterday which indicated it had a 20% increase in the number of clients it worked with last year.

However, Niamh Randall, national spokeswoman for the Simon Communities in Ireland, said the group had seen a similar increase in client numbers this year.

The annual report was launched on the same day as the latest nationwide emergency accommodation figures were released by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, showing further increases in the number of adults, families, and children in emergency accommodation.

There are now more than 5,101 homeless people, including 3,463 adults, and 774 families with 1,638 children. It means that since January this year there has been a 93% increase in family homelessness and a 16% increase in adult homelessness — something Ms Randall described as “unacceptable”.

The Simon Communities report shows it worked with 7,272 people last year — 1,704 people were supported in housing all around the country, 865 people were supported in Simon Housing, 435 people were supported in social housing, and 404 people were supported in private rented housing.

In the report the organisation’s chairman, Sam McGuinness, said 2014 had been an “extremely challenging year” and Ms Randall said of the crisis: “Our sense is that there has been a lot of talk and comment that it would be addressed and there has not been enough action.”

As an example she cited plans for rent certainty first mooted in February; yet what she termed “rent stability” measures were only signed into law two weeks ago. She also said not enough new builds had come on stream, yet there had been a commitment that Nama would be developing 20,000 private homes — “why are they not delivering social housing?” she asked.

Ms Randall said it was essential to look at short-term measures rather than telling people living in emergency accommodation to wait until further social housing became available.

She said the Housing First strategy had been shown to work and needed to be resourced.

The Simon Communities also called for a national strategy on the private rental sector, particularly on security of tenure. Threshold, which also published its annual report yesterday, made the same call, claiming that average rental increases in recent years masked the fact that it was typically poorer tenants who faced the most significant rent increases.

Ms Randall said that the homelessness crisis needed an “all-of-Government response”, and warned that people in emergency accommodation, including families, were going through incredible stress and trauma to which there had been a “passive” response.

“We are really concerned that when people come back after Christmas people are going to be in election mode,” she warned. “We cannot afford for people to take their eyes off this issue.”

See the full report at www.simon.ie

Alison O’Connor: 12

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