The Simon Community has reported that last year, 345 people slept rough on the streets of Cork compared to just 38 people four years earlier.
This, in a relatively small and prosperous city that imagines itself decent, is a challenging figure. It is also an indictment of this society’s efforts to put a safety net under every citizen.
Some individuals may have issues around drink or drug misuse, but addiction cannot be the sole reason so many people are destitute. These figures are an expression of individual and social failure and demand a proportionate response. The Government has a series of measures in train to confront the housing crisis but they will take time to deliver or to have a meaningful impact on this fraught situation.
Launching the report, Cork Simon director Dermot Kavanagh welcomed the recent increases in rent supplement and housing assistance payment, suggesting these measures would help prevent more people being made homeless. The other side of that coin is that people are being made homeless by landlords determined to take advantage of the housing crisis. Housing Minister Simon Coveney said: “We need to protect people who are in vulnerable positions who are in rental accommodation... that is why we increased rent supplement — and , we need to get more accommodation built.” There is, minister, a third leg to that stool: Rent control legislation.
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