By Evelyn RingIrish Examiner Reporter
A leading homeless charity has described the 55% increase in the number of families in emergency accommodation since the start of the year as “truly devastating”.
Simon Communities national spokeswoman Niamh Randall said latesthomeless figures from the Department of Environment was further evidence of the housing crisis.
During one week in June, there were 3,258 adults, 620 families and 1,318 children in emergency accommodation throughout the country.
“Such a reality is completely unacceptable,” said Ms Randall.
The report also shows that, over the first half of 2015, the number ofhomeless families increased from 401 to 620, a 55% increase.
Between January and June this year, the number of homeless children rose from 865 to 1,318, a 52% increase.
“The Simon Communities all across Ireland know that the housing andhomelessness crisis is worsening every single day,” she said.
More people were becoming trapped in emergency accommodation with nowhere to go and more were sleeping rough or using the couches of friends and families to sleep at night.
“There are growing reports of people and families sleeping in cars as they have nowhere else to go,” said Ms Randall.
An urgent plan to address the crisis was needed including an immediate increase in the rent supplement and housing assistance payment limits.
Last December, the Simon Communities reported a 41% increase in the number of individuals and families around the country turning to their services over a two-year period.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said it was “not suitable” to have homeless people staying in bed and breakfast establishments and hotels.
The number of families living in hotels has increased from 216 to 373 in the last six months, latest homeless figures show.
Mr Kenny said homeless was an issue that “always raises its heat from September to Christmas” and last year the Government had responded with a very serious package. “That dealt with the rough sleepers and thehomeless for a period and now it’s rising again,” he said yesterday.
A spokesman for the Department of the Environment said the solution was an increase in supply.
“The Social Housing Strategy provides for expenditure of €4bn out to 2020 and this will increase supply,” he said, adding that the department would continue to work closely with the service providers and local authorities to deal with the homeless problem.
However, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said it was not good enough for the Taoiseach to say that no family should be in temporary accommodation while he led a government that stood over increased homelessness.
“His government has failed to prevent homelessness, has failed to introduce rent control and has failed to protect tenants against landlords,” said Mr Adams.
He said the Government had failed to take the sides of homeowners against the banks, with repossessions on the rise.
The Government had also failed to invest adequately in a social housing building programme and to fully fund homeless services.
“Homelessness can be prevented and ended but it would take investment and political will, not the platitudes offered today by the Taoiseach,” he said.Fianna Fail’s spokesperson on children, Robert Troy, said he was shocked when Children’s Minister, James Reilly, told him that a child being homeless was not in itself enough to warrant welfare concerns.Mr Troy said the child and family agency, Tusla should be given statutory responsibility for homeless children.“The State must take a role in reducing the long term damage to these children’s health and development,” he said.
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