Feared ‘surge’ in homelessness has begun, warns leading charity

THE feared “surge” in homelessness arising from the collapse of the economy has begun, a leading charity has warned.

Dublin Simon Community said there was a “housing famine” even though there were thousands of housing developments lying idle.

The charity said government schemes aimed at moving homeless people into accommodation had failed and that less than 300 of the promised 1,200 homes had actually materialised.

Speaking at the launch of their 2009 Annual Review, Dublin Simon chief executive Sam McGuinness said the trends are very clear.

“The number of people we are working with and in contact with in 2009 was 2,450. In the first six months of 2010 we have already worked with over 1,800.

“The number of people we engaged with monthly was 810 in early 2009. By the end of June 2010 it was 905 people.”

He said the number of people accessing the rough sleepers service rose by 20% in that period, while there was a 30% jump in those presenting to the emergency accommodation service.

Mr McGuinness said the trickle of homelessness caused by the recession had now turned into a “flow”. He added: “The surge is coming. The economy is now having an impact.”

He said there was quite a large number of eastern Europeans who had been “left aside” from the collapse of the Celtic Tiger.

He said the Government had promised 1,000 housing units in 2009, which hadn’t materialised and 1,200 units in 2010.

He said, as of this month, less than 300 had come on stream. He said the various schemes that had been brought in – leasing, rental and affordable housing schemes – “were not working”.

He said if housing wasn’t available the problem simply could not be tackled.

“There is a housing famine, even though there are buildings all over the country, particularly in Dublin, visible.”

He said much of the housing is stuck in NAMA or the banks, but said the Government needs to bring in some sort of initiative to gain access to the units.

Launching the review, Dr John Hegarty of Trinity College Dublin said the “country was on its knees to some extent” and that there were tough times ahead and “going to get tougher”.

Glen Gannon, who was homeless in the late 1990s said Dublin Simon put him on the path to recovery and was now involved in acting and directing.

He said the years he was sleeping rough were “horrendous” and said the focus on each day was on “staying alive” and finding somewhere to sleep where he wouldn’t be “beaten to death”.

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