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363 children became homeless in the first two months of this year

Minister Alan Kelly convened his third homelessness forum today.

Image: child image via Shutterstock

Updated 10.02pm

IN THE LAST month alone, another 83 families in this country became homeless.

The latest figures from Focus Ireland mean 208 families, including 363 children, became homeless in the first two months of 2016.

This compares to the total of 739 families becoming homeless throughout the whole of last year.

“It’s not enough for this caretaker government and the next government to say they want to tackle homelessness and name check it as a priority,” commented Focus Ireland director of advocacy, Mike Allen. “They have to commit to a coherent set of actions required to achieve this urgently.”

It is important to highlight that while the number of families becoming homeless is shocking the situation would be much worse without the work Focus Ireland does in supporting families to move out of homelessness into secure housing.

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive this week reported that the overall number of homeless children in the capital has doubled in the last year with 1,616 children in emergency accommodation compared to 803 in 2015.

Last month, Focus Ireland assisted 36 families in moving out of homelessness – most into local authority homes or private rented accommodation supported by the housing assistance programme.

The charity said this movement was helped by the prioritisation of homeless families for social housing and the increase in the level of rent payable through government schemes.

Homeless forum

The alarming figures come as acting Environment Minister Alan Kelly convened his third homelessness forum.

Speaking at the forum, Kelly said this would not be “an overnight process”.

He stressed that there is “no silver bullet and there is no magic wand that will solve this problem instantly”.

In fact, I want to go further than that, by saying that the solutions to this problem are not all to be found within my department. I have said repeatedly that there are many levers that need to move for this problem to be solved, but they are not all within the power of my department. In fact, most of them aren’t.

He also said he had been “blocked by the Constitution” while trying to tackle the problem.

Focus Ireland called on Kelly to help set up three working groups consisting of cross party TDs, NGOs and key officials from government departments to fast-track widespread agreement on key issues to tackle the homeless crisis.

The charity said these three groups must be established to help streamline consensus for specific actions on the issues of rent supplement, buy-to-let properties in arrears and NAMA.

Speaking at the forum,  Allen said:

We must remember that while the horse-trading to form the new government is taking place more than three families are still becoming homeless every single day.

“Today’s talks have been a positive development to discuss some urgent specifics but it is important to restate we need a number of key cast iron commitments and timelines in place on a number of overarching issues in the next programme for government. These demands include calling for a firm target date for ending family homelessness and also a commitment to build 40,000 social homes over the next five years.”

Modular housing

Depaul CEO Kerry Anthony said today’s forum was “instrumental in bringing stakeholders together to discuss issues of housing and homelessness”.

She welcomed the fact people are set to moved into modular housing in Ballymun, Dublin next month, saying the units are “a viable alternative to hotel and B&B accommodation, which is wholly unsuitable for lengthy durations”.

- with reporting by Órla Ryan

Read: Man sleeping rough at GPO says 1916 leaders ‘must be turning in their graves’>

Read: These are the five things Focus Ireland says will help end homelessness>

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