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Dublin: 12 °C Tuesday 13 November, 2018
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"Alan Kelly is the only minister who understands the homeless problem," says Peter McVerry

Almost 200 new beds are being announced for Dublin’s homeless.

Updated 3.19pm

THE GOVERNMENT HAS been accused of ‘fiddling while Rome burns’ over the homeless crisis, but Minister Alan Kelly has been given a ringing endorsement by a prominent campaigner.

Fr. Peter McVerry said this afternoon that Kelly is the “only minister who understands the homeless problem”, but that Ministers Michael Noonan and Joan Burton are among those blocking progress.

“It’s not an Alan Kelly’s responsibility. Let me be clear, I actually support Alan Kelly in what he’s doing, he can’t make the other ministers to agree to what he would like to do and what I believe would make a significant difference,” McVerry told RTÉ’s News at One .

The question of rent control, the Minister for Finance is against it. We have a situation here while families are flooding into homelessness, government ministers are bickering around, arguing with one another, disagreeing with one another. You know, Nero fiddles while Rome burns, that’s the only image I have. It’s an absolute disgrace.

The focus on housing comes as the Dublin homeless executive this morning announced almost 200 additional emergency beds as well as accommodation for couples and families in response to homelessness in the city.

The new beds are part of the ‘Cold Weather Initiative’. Today the executive said the aim is to “prevent fatalities and/or serious harm and provide an emergency humanitarian response to the needs of persons who may be sleeping rough during cold weather”.

Included this year are 100 single beds for male and female adults at a temporary night shelter in a building in Dublin’s Digital Hub on Thomas Street. A 75 further beds will be made available across existing homeless services.

The additional beds announced today are surplus to the 251 new emergency beds implemented after the homeless summit last December. These filled up rapidly, with figures for June this year showing 1,975 of the available 1,977 beds were occupied.

A bed for anyone who wants it

Labour Senator Aideen Hayden told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that “there will be a bed for anybody who wants it over the winter period”.

She said rough sleeper figures for April indicated there were 105 people on the streets so the 175 new beds should be sufficient.

Almost 2,500 adults without children are now homeless across the State, along with 1,571 children, and 980 parents. As part of the initiative, 37 family units are also being opened up and 18 long-term supported accommodation places will be made available later this month for couples.

The Capuchin Centre has extended its early opening hours to 7am for the winter period.

The emergency bed announcement comes, however, within hours of a Labour spokesperson confirming that Kelly’s plans for rent certainty are “unlikely to materialise” in the coming measures aimed at tacking the problem.

Kelly told RTÉ this afternoon that “discussions are ongoing in relation to this”.

“They will come to fruition. I believe there is a necessity for a package of proposals that will ensure people can stay in their homes and we will stem the tide of people coming into homelessness,” he said.

“One is escalating rents and the other is the supply of housing,” he added. “The long-term solution to this is supply but but in the short-term we need to make sure people aren’t falling out of the rental sector.”

Fr. McVerry described the announcement that rent controls won’t be happening as “a disaster”.

“Every single charity working with homeless people has emphasised the need for rent controls of one form for another and for an increase in the rent supplement, and those calls have been going on for 18 months and have fallen on deaf ears,” he said

Unprecedented

CEO of homeless charity Depaul, Kerry Anthony, has also called for an increase in the rent supplement saying that said rates of homelessness have risen at unprecedented levels in the last 12 months.

Though she commended the success in sourcing extra emergency beds, she urged the government to re-double its efforts to put long-term solutions in place.

We call for the immediate raising of rent supplement rates and improvement of tenure security in order to stem the flow of new households into homelessness. Furthermore, we call upon the Government to enact a two-pronged approach to both incentivise landlords currently in the market to continue to rent and to implement an effective “vacant site” tax to encourage landowners to develop housing.

She also said the government needs to progress the supply of traditional and modular housing as a priority.

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy

Read: In a south Dublin park, three men and a dog bed down for the night>

Read: Dublin may be getting five modular housing sites – here’s where they’ll be>

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