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'The government needs to act now': Demand for homeless service up 25%

Focus Ireland helped 10,000 people last year who were on the streets or at risk of becoming homeless.

Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

HOMELESS CHARITY FOCUS Ireland has reported a significant increase in the demand for its services in the last year.

In its annual report for 2013, the charity said 10,000 people used its services – a rise of 25% on the previous year.

The report said the two main reasons for this rise were the “unprecedented increase” in families needing the services and their own “proactive approach” to preventing people from becoming homeless with advice and information centres.

In the report, CEO Mark Byrne commented that the overall lack of supply of social housing and rocketing rents in the private rented market have resulted in a “critical shortage of homes”.

The number of families becoming homeless each month in Dublin doubled in 2013. The vast majority of these came from the private rented sector and had never been homeless before.

Take action now

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland this morning, he said it is “fundamental” that accommodation is secured for people if the government is going to reach its aim of ending homelessness by 2016.

“We need the government start taking action and start taking action now,” he added.

In an interview with the Irish Times this morning, Minister Alan Kelly ruled out rent controls, claiming the problem can be solved by building more social housing – something Mark Byrne thinks is “disappointing”.

Byrne said he believes that the 2016 goal can only be achieved with a combination of rent controls and construction of social housing, as people are continuing to become homeless because of soaring rents, particularly in Dublin.

“Rents have shot up as high as 20% in the last year – that’s actually causing people to become homeless”.

Rent supplements need to to account of those increases if homelessness is to be properly addressed, Byrne said this morning.

Looking for someone to tell them they matter

In the charity’s annual report Founder Sister Stanislaus Kennedy, said the number of individuals and families coming to Focus Ireland for help can be “read as a shocking indictment of the response to the economic crisis that we have faced”.

…but what is really distressing are the terrible stories I hear from people with young children who come into Focus Ireland every day looking for someone to listen to them and tell them that they matter, to help them find, make and keep a home.

One family is becoming homeless every day in Dublin alone.

“This isn’t just happening out of the blue,” Kennedy said. “We stopped building social housing years ago and, instead, the State has been paying private landlords to supply accommodation for people in need of housing.”

The charity’s report this year has a real emphasis on transparency in its finances, no doubt because of the recent charity scandals. Mark Byrne said Focus Ireland believes all donors have a right to know exactly how all the money it receives is spent. For every euro received in 2013, 89 cent was spent directly on services to combat and prevent homelessness.

Read: ‘The homeless tsunami has arrived’ as Dublin numbers reach new high>

Read: ‘If it wasn’t for friends, I’d literally be on the streets’>

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