Doubts cast on Government's homeless strategy

An ambitious Government plan to tackle homelessness was today branded meaningless unless the state confirms money to finance it is available.

An ambitious Government plan to tackle homelessness was today branded meaningless unless the state confirms money to finance it is available.

Housing Minister Michael Finneran vowed that by 2010 no homeless person would be sleeping rough or in emergency accommodation for more than six months.

The Simon Communities and Focus Ireland both hit out at the strategy saying it was not budgeted and contained no assurance that funds will be rolled out for the project's lifespan.

But Mr Finneran said €620m had been set aside for homelessness since 2000, with €92m alone this year.

Denis Doherty, chair of Simon, said: "The objectives of the strategy are very well-meaning and indeed respond to many of the representations and concerns highlighted by Simon in the lead-up to the drafting of the strategy.

"A detailed implementation plan is essential in order to give this new strategy credibility and ensure buy-in from the homeless sector.

"Most importantly, the homeless strategy needs to be budgeted.

"The implementation plan should set out where the funding to meet the targets outlined in the strategy will come from.

"It should give us assurance that the budget is there to fund the entire strategy over its life-span from 2008 to 2013, and not assigned on a year-by-year basis."

The Way Home: A Strategy to Address Adult Homelessness in Ireland 2008-2013 promises a number proposals to tackle homelessness, including eradicating the need for emergency accommodation.

It pledges that by 2010 nobody will be in emergency accommodation for more than six months and no homeless person should be sleeping rough.

Arguing that emergency accommodation was neither suitable in the long-term nor the most effective use of resources, Mr Finneran promised adequate access to social housing lettings.

"At the moment we have a situation where people are in emergency accommodation not for months but years," Mr Finneran said.

"This is something which is totally unacceptable and I as minister do not intend to stand over that."

However, the Simon Communities of Ireland said the strategy was vague and lacked detail while Focus Ireland said there were several serious gaps in the proposals.

Joyce Loughnan, Focus Ireland chief executive, said: "There is a lack of clarity in the document in terms of the specific actions that will be undertaken, the party responsible for each action and the timeframe for delivery of each commitment.

"The strategy is not accompanied by any clear financial commitments. This raises doubts as to how much, if any, of it is actually achievable.

"It is also disappointing to see no mention of multi-annual funding for projects and organisations working to end homelessness."

Mr Finneran said the state was committed to tackling homelessness and said €92m is being rolled out this year alone, while €620m has been made available since 2000.

Focus Ireland also said there was no mention in the strategy of the National Economic and Social Council recommendation that 73,000 social housing units be built between 2004 and 2012.

The Simon Communities said more people were now using its services around the country and that the number of homeless in Dublin had jumped from 104 in November 2007 to 111 in April this year.

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