The number of families that became homeless nearly doubled last year compared to 2014, according to a charity’s annual report.
Focus Ireland yesterday published its annual report for 2015 — a year it says was the worst for family homelessness.
Sr Stanislaus Kennedy, founder and life president of Focus Ireland, said she has never seen family homelessness as bad as it is now.
“The number of families becoming homeless rose from an average of 34 per month in 2014 to over 60 per month in 2015,” she states in the report.
At the launch, Sr Stan said the legislative approach to tackling homelessness is still based on the approach adopted in 1988, when the problem mostly concerned single men. She believes this approach needs to evolve to meet the modern homeless crisis.
“It must be clear to everyone that the risks we are dealing with now are completely different because hundreds of children are involved. Everyone is trying hard to make the outdated system work but services across the country desperately need leadership from Government to update the rules to reflect the new reality,” she said.
Focus Ireland chairman Gerry Danaher said while it broadly welcomes the government’s action plan on housing and homelessness, more detailed policies are needed to tackle family homelessness.
“There is little in the action plan which will cut the numbers of families losing their homes or help others secure a home,” said Mr Danaher.
“Focus Ireland and the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive are supporting more families out of homelessness than ever before, but we cannot keep pace with the deepening crisis as 90 families have become homeless every month so far this year, compared with 60 a month last year.
“A second issue is that every night the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive and Focus Ireland struggle to ensure that every family has somewhere safe to stay, and it is not uncommon for us to still be seeking beds for ten or more families late into the evening.
“Frequently we are still seeking rooms for some of these families as midnight approaches. The action plan is essentially silent on this crucial issue. The risk of children being forced to sleep rough with their families for want of an emergency bed is now an every night reality.”
Mr Danaher announced that Focus Ireland will provide 600 more homes by 2019, 150 homes a year over the next four years, which will double its current housing stock.
The annual report states that the charity supported more than 12,500 people who were homeless or at risk in 2015, a 9% rise compared to 11,500 in 2014. It found that one in three people availing of its services in 2015 were a child.
The report states that families are travelling to Dublin to seek help due to a lack of services in their area.
“Where the Housing First Intake Team came into contact with families, they were provided with emergency accommodation, but there were a few confirmed cases of families with children forced to sleep rough (and many reports which could not be confirmed),” states the report.
“Many of these families were not from the Dublin region, but had come to Dublin because of an inadequate response to their plight in their own localities.”
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