Hiking rent supplements could end homelessness

A decision on whether to raise rent supplements to keep pace with rocketing rents will not be made until the new year, despite growing levels of homelessness.

Yesterday, Focus Ireland said the Government could stop families becoming homeless “with the stroke of a pen” by raising rent supplements to match market rents.

However, a spokesperson for the Department of Social Protection said the Review of Maximum Rent Limits for 2015-2016 would not be finalised until the new year.

Focus Ireland’s life president Sr Stanislaus Kennedy said 800 children and their families were made homeless in the first 10 months of this year, with 45 families losing their homes in Dublin alone last month.

A spokesman for the charity said 41 of these families “had no previous experience of homelessness”.

He said the problem of families becoming homeless was also “starting to raise its head in Cork”, with the added trauma of family units being broken up because of a lack of suitable accommodation.

“In some cases, the fathers are being sent to one location and mothers and children to another,” the spokesman said.

Focus Ireland has blamed soaring rents, particularly in the capital, and Government inaction in tackling the homelessness crisis.

Official figures released at the weekend showed that the numbers sleeping rough in Dublin soared by a fifth over the past year.

The latest survey by the city council identified 168 homeless people who will be sleeping on the streets over the coming winter.

While the Government has launched a number of initiatives, including the Dublin Action Plan, a targeted programme of actions to address homelessness in the Dublin region, and the Housing First Service to provide housing for rough sleepers, it has so far failed to respond to calls by a variety of agencies working with the homeless to raise the rent supplement.

A spokesperson for the Department of Social Welfare said it should be noted that officers administering rent supplement could use their discretionary statutory powers to award a supplement for rental purposes in exceptional cases, “for example when considering applications of customers who are at risk of losing their tenancy”.

She said in light of the current supply difficulties in the Dublin region, families on rent supplement who are at risk of losing their accommodation can have more timely and appropriate interventions made on their behalf on foot of an initiative launched last June.

However, Focus Ireland said that it urgently needs public donations to help the charity tackle the crisis over the coming weeks.

“It would break your heart to see where many children and their families who are homeless are being forced to stay,” said Sr Stanislaus.

“Losing a home is more than a family can bear.

“Some families who are homeless are squeezed into tiny hotel rooms —five or six people in one room, nowhere to cook or for children to play.

“And it’s not just families. There are many single people and couples who are homeless as well and they all need a place to call home.”

The charity said demand for its services grew by 25% last year as it helped more than 10,000 people who were made homeless or at risk of losing their home.

Rents have risen by 15% in Dublin over the past year, and the average national rent nationwide has risen by almost €150, from €790 a month to €933, according to property website daft.ie.

The Focus Ireland Christmas appeal is urging people to call 1850 204 205 or log on to www.focusireland.ie


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