Sam Boal via Photocall Ireland
Out of control

The government still thinks it can end long term homelessness by 2016

The Dublin Simon Community said today that the target is “unachievable”.

Updated 3.25pm 

THE TARGET TO end long term homelessness by 2016 remains valid despite claims to contrary this morning, the government has said.

The Simon Community in Dublin says temporary emergency accommodation is now becoming long term and speaking at the launch of the charity’s annual review today, Sam McGuinness from Dublin Simon said the plan to end long term homelessness by 2016 is now clearly unachievable.

“The 2014 target of 1,100 tenancies for Dublin has been reduced by 30% because of the complete collapse in the private rented and social housing market, with additional housing extremely slow to come on stream.

Instead, temporary accommodation has become a long term solution as at least 50% of people are now stuck in emergency shelters for more than six months, with little or no hope for the future.

“Each day, very vulnerable people are being met with a complex mix of housing shortages, inadequate rent supplement/allowances and rents rising at a shocking rate, with discrimination against social welfare recipients. Individuals and families are losing their homes and are being shut out of the rental market because of prices they cannot afford.

“Recent talks about green shoots are not reaching the most vulnerable in our society, the majority of whom never experienced any benefits form the Celtic Tiger. Sadly, the less fortunate have become have become more unfortunate.”

However, the government said today that the 2016 target “remains valid”. A spokesperson for Tánaiste Joan Burton said: “The target remains as it is.”

Meanwhile a spokesperson for the Taoiseach said of the Simon Community’s contention that the 2016 target is unachievable: “We were told a lot was unachievable in this recovery.”

Sinn Féin motion 

Tonight, the Dáil will debate a Sinn Féin motion on housing and homelessness. The party’s housing spokesperson Dessie Ellis said that the government should use €1 billion from the Strategic Investment Fund to build 6,600 social housing units over the next two years.

The party is also proposing the establishment of housing trusts in local authorities that would give them the ability to borrow money to build housing as well as the introduction of rent controls.

“We’re not here to score points. Although we accept that the government haven’t reacted to the housing crisis which is absolutely out of control,” Ellis said at Leinster House today.

Emergency Accommodation

McGuinness stated that over 1,400 individuals are forced to take shelter in emergency accommodation in the Dublin region each night, with little or no hope of moving on to somewhere of their own that’s safe and protected.

“This figure does not include the high number of families and children suffering the effects of living in hotels and other poor emergency accommodation; without proper access to essential facilities.

In the absence of sufficient housing options, many are forced to move from shelter to shelter or even more worrying – resort to rough sleeping.

Figures from the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive recorded that 79% of people presenting as homeless were repeat presentations, with a total of 25 on average a day presenting as homeless.

“The longer people are forced to remain in emergency accommodation, the more intense supports they will need when they are lucky to have the opportunity to move on.”

Rough Sleeping

Last week a volunteer group counted 158 people rough sleeping in Dublin – 24% more than the official count last April.

Sam McGuinness said that; “We would see this as the absolute minimum figure, as this does not include people considered the “hidden homeless” who are couch surfing, staying in squats, hospitals, internet cafes or temporary B&Bs.”

The Simon Community in Dublin, which conducts regular weekly, early morning street counts of rough sleepers, is experiencing significant increases in the numbers bedded down in the inner City Centre between the areas of Jervis Street, Amien Street and Harcourt Street.

It says demand for sleeping bags rose 57% between the second quarter in 2013 and 2014.

Responding to demand

Sam McGuinness said that “over the past year we have increased our accommodation capacity by over 50% in order to respond to the huge demand”.

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Christy Burke, launched the Dublin Simon Community Annual Review 2013 at the Mansion House.

We are all very proud to be associated with the work and reputation of Dublin Simon Community, who do great work to help those on the margins of our society. People who are homeless are citizens with the same rights and aspirations as everyone else.

He added; “We are grateful to the hundreds of Simon staff and volunteers. They give hope every day with a friendly face, warm recognition and encouragement to those often very sick and vulnerable people to regain their self worth and usefulness.”

- additional reporting from Hugh O’Connell

First published 10.11am 

Read: Over 158 people in Dublin were sleeping rough on Wednesday night>

Read: Touching comic tells story of homeless man who saved rabbit from Liffey>

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