Jan O’Sullivan, the housing minister, said it was an “affront” to all Irish people that a number of our citizens do not have access to a place they call home.
The minister — who identified homelessness as her top priority when she took office over a year ago — yesterday unveiled plans to end long-term homelessness by 2016.
Government to end long term homelessness in Ireland by 2016. Detailed roadmap setting out clear milestones now needed simon.ie— Simon Communities (@SimonCommunity) February 21, 2013
Groups working with homeless people welcomed the promise, but were quick to point out that a similar pledge was made by Fianna Fáil to end homelessness by 2010.
The number of people without a roof over their head has risen from 1,384 to 3,808 people according to the latest census figures.
Although there are no updated figures for across the country, the Simon Community says at least 50 new people are turning to homeless services every week in Dublin alone.
“There needs to be a very significant step-up in the number of homes made available for people if we are to cope with the level of demand, reduce the overall number of people who are long-term unemployed, and meet this 2016 target,” said its spokeswoman, Niamh Randall.
She said she hoped the homelessness strategy unveiled yesterday would “give renewed hope to people experiencing homelessness in Ireland today”.
However, she added: “Hope alone is not enough. We now need a detailed roadmap setting out clear milestones.”
Ms O’Sullivan said her plan will succeed where others have not, because it aims to place people in long-term homes rather than in short term or hostel- style accommodation.
“In the past there was the intention to achieve the goal but there wasn’t the concentration of effort,” she said.
The decision was made to “turn around the policy” to a “housing-led approach” follows a review of the last government’s The Way Home strategy by Eoin O’Sullivan of the school of social policy at Trinity College Dublin.
He questioned the effectiveness of funds being spent on homelessness services, and argued for long-term rental housing “with support as needed” to provide “sustainable tenancies”.
Ms O’Sullivan admitted there is a supply problem and that her department is “struggling” with ensuring it has enough accommodation to meet demand.
However, she said her department hoped to secure 3,000 units from Nama.
Focus Ireland said the sector had learned a lot from the failure to reach the 2010 target, and the 2016 one was achievable if the lessons of the past were applied.
Labour hailed the strategy as a success for the party in Government. Cork South Central TD, Ciarán Lynch, said it was “yet another example of the Labour Party’s commitment to protecting the most marginalised members of our society”.