Taoiseach expresses 'concern' over rising homelessness figures

Taoiseach expresses 'concern' over rising homelessness figures

Taoiseach Micheál Martin speaking to the media at Deerpark House homeless services in Cork City on Monday. Housing charity Depaul has taken over the facility. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The Taoiseach has expressed concern about rising homelessness figures and said increasing housing supply was the key to fixing the problem.

Micheál Martin has also insisted that evictions can’t be banned as they were during level 5 public health restrictions, on foot of legal advice, but he said legislation is being used to protect vulnerable tenants.

He was speaking in Cork at the official takeover by housing charity, Depaul, of the St Vincent’s and the Deerpark House emergency accommodation facilities in Cork city which have 73 and 51 places for men, respectively.

Mr Martin attended the handover ceremony at Deerpark House, which he opened in 2002, to mark the formal completion of the takeover by Depaul of a range of homeless services which were provided by the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP).

He said the transfer of those various services demonstrates the "responsibility, foresight and vision" of two organisations coming together to have a positive impact on people facing homelessness.

But just days after new figures showed the number of men, women and children who are homeless and living in emergency accommodation has passed the 9,000 mark for the first time since April 2020, Mr Martin said it was of concern to Government.

Micheál Martin meets service user John Kavanagh at Deerpark House. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Micheál Martin meets service user John Kavanagh at Deerpark House. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

“Generally speaking, those figures would be of concern to us because they had been on a downward trajectory over the last two years and coming significantly down,” he said.

“Supply is the key issue and in our Housing for All strategy we have a clear provision for Housing First, with up to 1,300 units to be provided over the next number of years as part of the Housing First strategy, which is a particular intervention that came from the homeless sector, from providers in the homeless sector, which basically provides housing with supports to people living rough immediately and it is working very very well.

“Many of the bodies involved in providing the units are in partnership with the Government in that respect.

“So we are and will be providing the resources for that but we need more supply overall – that is the key to this.

And we are committed to 9,500 social housing new builds. We are aiming to reach the target in 2022."

That 9,500 figure includes direct builds and acquisitions and leasing, he clarified, but said the "overall bulk" would be direct build units through local authorities and approved housing bodies.

He said the Housing for All plan seeks to support the most vulnerable by significantly increasing the number of tenancies for those experiencing homelessness and who have more complex needs.

“Yet the pathway to eradicating homelessness is bound up with the constructive contributions of organisations like Depaul and SVP, working together in a progressive and transformational manner to meet the ever-changing needs of people facing homelessness," he said.

Depaul chief executive David Carroll said the charity had grown in line with the complex and changing demands of the homeless population, and the solutions outlined in Government policy.

“The paramount consideration between both organisations is ensuring service continuity and the advancement of housing-led responses to homelessness in these regions," he said.

Depaul provides more than 600-bed spaces per night and in 2020 it supported over 3,500 people.

Established in 2002, it now manages over 30 specialised accommodation and outreach services.

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