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Government insists homeless issue is being taken seriously, amid heated Dáil debate

It follows the release today of figures showing an increase in the numbers sleeping rough in Dublin.

Richard Boyd Barrett
Richard Boyd Barrett
Image: Screengrab via Oireactas.ie

HOUSING MINISTER JAN O’Sullivan told the Dáil this evening she had been in contact with Dublin City Council to ensure more beds were being made available to help tackle the issue of homelessness.

She was answering questions during the time set aside for ‘topical issues’ after new figures showed there were 139 people sleeping rough in the capital on 12 November last — an increase of 45 since April of this year.

The revelation comes in the context of last week’s horrific Phoenix Park killing, in which a man who was sleeping rough had his sleeping bag set alight.

Addressing the Minsiter, ULA TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the Government’s policies were leading to directly to homelessness, and pointed in particular to problems caused by successive cuts to rent supplement.

“Any government that cannot put roofs over the heads of its citizens so they do not have to sleep on the street is not worthy of the name government,” the Dun Laoighaire deputy said.

He raised the cases of two people who had come to his clinic for help as they were facing losing their rented accommodation, and said that Government policy meant that the profile of people who were losing their homes was changing, and that it was “not just people with drug addiction problems or mental health problems”.

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Housing Minister Jan O’Sullivan [Screengrab via Oireachtas.ie]

Responding to statements from Boyd Barrett and Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis, O’Sullivan highlighted her announcement at the weekend of details on how the Government intends to spend €100 million to build 630 new homes for social housing over the next two years.

“We’re back in mainstream provision of social housing now which wasn’t possible, not because of our policies, but because of the economic collapse of our county,” the Labour TD said.

She described homelessness as an “affront to society” and said the growing number of people sleeping rough was “unacceptable”.

O’Sullivan said that on the night of the count, there had been 1,461 emergency shelter beds in Dublin city, and stated that she had been in contact with the council to ensure more were provided.

She said that as a result of Government initiatives, more than 870 people had moved from homeless services to permanent housing in 2012, and that around 900 were expected to make that transition this year.

“Almost €23 million has been spent on emergency accommodation in the Dublin area in 2013,” O’ Sullivan said.

As the debate continued, an irate Richard Boyd Barrett responded that the country needed “tens of thousands of units of social housing” instead of a “few hundred”, and said Government policy in the area was “a joke”.

Read: Ciaran Moran, 27, charged with murder of Gerard Donnelly (36) in Phoenix Park

Read: 139 people slept rough in Dublin on 12 November

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