Rising rents and living costs are pushing people to the brink, according to St Vincent de Paul. And we are living in an increasingly “unequal nation” where the most vulnerable are not benefitting from the recovery.
The society assisted 130,000 Irish households in need in 2016. In its pre-budget submission to the Government, Bridging the Gap, SVP has called for investment in social housing, requisite payments and education in order to tackle this growing divide.
“The past 12 months have been marked by economic growth and falling unemployment,” said SVP national president Kieran Stafford.
“However, it is clear from my own conference work in Clonmel and from other members on the ground right across the country that the most vulnerable in our society are not experiencing the benefits from these improvements.”
He said that when they are out visiting clients, the society’s members witness people suffering the challenges of rising rents and homelessness.
“Our members regularly visit individuals and families who are experiencing the stress and challenge and threat of homelessness, rising rents, making do in poor quality, inadequate housing as well as surviving on low incomes while trying to cope with the rising cost of education,” Mr Stafford said.
The society also described new family hubs, which are to replace hotels being used to house homeless families, as just a new form of “emergency accommodation”.
“In Rebuilding Ireland (housing and homeless action plan published in July 2016) the Government made a commitment to end the use of hotels and B&Bs by the beginning of July.
“We are seeing the development of new models of emergency accommodation in the form of family hubs and our members are increasingly visiting people in these family hubs. These are an improvement but they do represent another form of emergency accommodation,” said Jennifer Thompson, SVP’s social policy development officer.
“There is an urgent need to address the shortage of social and affordable housing and this is why the SVP is calling for a long-term and sustained prioritisation and an increase in funding for the building and acquiring of social housing units.”
Ms Thompson said homelessness is the “most acute sign of poverty” in Ireland, and warned our attempts to address it are too slow.
“The problem is growing faster than the response,” she said.
The charity’s pre-budget submission made several proposals aimed at tackling poverty and homelessness in Ireland.
Proposals include increasing investment to fund social housing units, increasing rent-supplement payments in line with market rents and to increase the weekly allowance for children and families living in direct provision.
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