Focus Ireland should not be celebrating its 25th anniversary this year because the Government promised to eradicate homelessness by the end of 2010, but instead of meeting the targets, the problems are actually getting worse.
Sister Stanislaus Kennedy, a founder of Focus Ireland, has warned of an “entrenched homeless crisis” if people do not start to move from hostels and traditional housing into long-term homes.
The lists of the homeless are growing. Back in 1991 there were 2,700 homeless people in the country and 43,000 people on housing waiting lists. This has now jumped to 5,000 homeless, with 100,000 on council waiting lists.
The problem is getting worse because it was not tackled during the Celtic Tiger years. Whole families are in need. Children are being reared in essentially homeless conditions, which will probably earmark them for future homelessness.
The homeless charity Trust, which has been in operation for almost 35 years, has warned that drugs, violence and racism are complicating an already chronic situation. People who are caught up in the vicious cycle of homelessness are being sucked into a culture of abject ruin.
In seems particularly contradictory that homelessness would be a national problem when there are so many empty houses and unfinished estates around the country. The old adage about the ill wind should provide inspiration because there is a potential for people with vision to transform the situation in a positive way.
There are plans to help the bankers and property speculators who undermined the economy. There seems to be no limit to the willingness to help Anglo Irish Bank, but there is little effort to help the ordinary people who are now under financial pressure through no fault of their own or because the bankers and speculators deluded them into taking out mortgages that they can no longer afford.
Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan was talking yesterday about the need to cut a further €3 billion in spending from the forthcoming budget in December. Many people in most need are being ignored.
The self-employed who are now out of work due to the economic downturn have no statutory rights to any kind of assistance for a year. They contributed to the economy in good times and bad, but now find themselves out in the cold. The Government must find a way to help the needy, not just the greedy that led us into the current mess.
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