Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said there is no reason for anyone to sleep rough this Christmas.
On the first anniversary of the death of Jonathan Corrie, homeless and yards from the front gates of Leinster House, Mr Kenny faced a backlash from opposition leaders over his handling of the homelessness and housing crisis and spiralling rents.
“In respect of the people who sleep rough on the streets a great deal of effort has gone into it and I don’t see any reason why the facilities and the opportunities that’s available now would mean that anybody would be on the streets of any city this winter, and I hope that’s not the case,” he said.
Both Fr Peter McVerry and the Simon Community warned the homelessness crisis in Ireland is now worse than one year ago when 43-year-old Mr Corrie was found dead in a doorway.
They were among hundreds of other activists who marched from the GPO to the Dail as part of a vigil to mark the homeless man’s death on Molesworth Street.
It took place as a report showed more than 2,100 adults and 1,300 children accessed emergency accommodation every night in the capital between July and September this year.
The figures for the entire country include more than 700 families with more than 1,500 children and about 2,500 single people.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein president pressed the Taoiseach on the Government’s response to the housing crisis raising the rent issue and calls for more social housing.
Mr Martin said: “One year on those at the coalface, working at the coalface, working on the streets are very clear about one thing, the homelessness crisis has deepened and has actually got worse since the sad death of Jonathan Corrie.”
Mr Adams dismissed Taoiseach’s response about people sleeping rough saying: “Yes, it’s their own fault Taoiseach.”
Richard Boyd Barrett, People Before Profit TD and one of those supporting the march to the Dail, described the Taoiseach’s responses as drivel.
Amid criticisms of the Government’s handling of the homelessness and housing crisis Fr McVerry said the 271 additional beds for the homeless opened this time last year in direct response to Mr Corrie’s death had been filled within four weeks.
He also warned the rate at which families were becoming homeless had almost doubled in the last year, on average 40 families a month compared to 73 now.
Anthony Flynn, director of the Inner City Helping Homeless, said a “blue bag lifestyle” was now socially acceptable in Ireland.
“A year ago we stood mourning the death of a member of the homeless community,” he said.
“On foot of his death fire brigade action was implemented by Minister (Alan) Kelly, the promise of ’no person will be on the streets at Christmas unless they wanted to be’, the implementation of emergency beds yet never keeping in line with the ever growing number of people presenting as rough sleepers.”
The Government has attempted to stem the flow of people into emergency accommodation by promoting the building of 500 prefabricated modular homes in a number of locations in Dublin, rent freezes for two years and commitments to build 35,000 social houses in six years.
One project for prefabs in Ballymun has run into difficulties after protests over whether it would block plans for permanent homes on the site.
Mr Corrie’s death was not the only one of a homeless man on the streets in the last year but his makeshift bed on the steps of a Georgian building passed by politicians everyday sparked a huge outcry.
Other rough sleepers who died included a man in his 50s in Temple Bar in January and another man in his mid-30s on Dawson Lane who was discovered in September.
Meanwhile, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has appealed for donations to stock food banks in December.
The Crosscare agency operates seven of the centres in the capital after opening two new ones this year and warned that there have been no signs of a fall-off in demand for its services.