Sr Stan, as she is affectionately known, was speaking at a celebration in Dublin to mark the homeless charity’s anniversary.
“The Government needs to act now to prevent people from having to leave their homes. It really breaks my heart to see young families with nowhere to call home,” she said.
Sr Stan said the Government must increase the rent allowance immediately and arrange for people to have access to appropriate temporary housing as quickly as possible.
“The Government is to spend millions of euro on new houses but they won’t come on stream for 18 months to two years.
“The first thing the Government really must do is to prevent people from having to leave their homes.”
Sr Stan said Environment Minister Alan Kelly, had yet to deliver on his promise to bring in rent certainty last October. “I was sitting on the same platform as the minister when he promised to introduce rent certainty measures. We simply cannot wait any longer for it. We are in a state of emergency.
“We have to work to try and keep people in their homes right now instead of adding more and more families to the list of people who are homeless.”
The Government has admitted that a shortage of housing was at the heart of rising rents and that addressing the problem would take time.
Earlier yesterday, campaigner for the homeless, Fr Peter McVerry, said the homeless situation was like a boat that was drifting towards the rocks — no one seemed to be in charge.
The Peter McVerry Trust has called on the Department of the Environment to bring forward legislation to freeze rents in the private residential market.
Speaking on RTÉ radio yesterday, Fr McVerry said freezing rents should be one of the measures taken to prevent more families floating into homelessness. He also called for an increase in the rent supplement.
But he did not think it very likely that a move would be made any time soon to freeze rents or increase the rent supplement.
“Well, there are a number of TDs who are landlords; I don’t think they are going to vote for it.”
Asked if he had met Mr Kelly, Fr McVerry said he had not, but that the minister was well aware of his views.
Responding, a spokesperson for the minister said Mr Kelly had met the Peter McVerry Trust on two occasions. “Fr Peter was not there but the opportunity to meet was,” he said.
“Minister Kelly has promised a package on rent certainty and will bring his proposals to Government as soon as possible.”
The minister recently raised concern about the many complex economic and legal issues that would be raised by the regulation of rent increases.
He stressed he had to be satisfied that any measures were balanced and had the desired effect on the rental market while being fair to landlords and tenants.