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Sunday 1 October 2023 Dublin: 15°C
# Vincent Browne
'Isn’t there something awful about society, that so many people are praying for a house?'
Alone Ireland today launched a campaign called ‘How will you pay the rent when you retire?’

Alone Jason Clarke Photography Vincent Browne at today's launch Jason Clarke Photography

ACTION NEEDS TO be taken to help older people who are homeless or facing other housing issues, Alone Ireland has said.

The charity, which supports older people to live at home, today launched a campaign called ‘How will you pay the rent when you retire?’ It aims to raise awareness about what it calls “the hidden housing crisis among older people”.

Speaking at the launch in Dublin city today, Alone CEO Seán Moynihan said more and more older people are renting their accommodation and many are struggling to keep up with the increasing cost of this.

“The contributory state pension is €1,032.63 per month, but average market rent in Ireland is €1,227. At the moment, an older person relying on their contributory pension can’t afford to rent a home.

“There is an assumption within the pensions system that older people do not need to rent or do not have accommodation costs, yet in 2016, there were 15,883 people over 60 in the private rental sector.”

Speaking to at the launch, broadcaster Vincent Browne said issues surrounding older people who are renting their accommodation will only increase in coming years.

It’s going to be an increasing problem. There are about 900,000 people over 60 at the moment but in 2031 it’s expected that there will be about 1.4 million, so it’s going to be a big problem. People should be worried about this prospect, that the old age pension just won’t cover the bare necessities.

Browne said the central issue in relation to this is inequality, stating: “The median disposable income is about €21,000 and that means that 50% of people have an income higher than €21,000 and 50% of people have an income lower that €21,000. How do people possibly live?”

Browne noted that about 900,000 people in Ireland earn less than €13,000 and therefore live below the poverty line.

“This is the major issue in our society apart from maybe sex abuse. It’s not acknowledged.”

Browne said older people experiencing poverty are often in a “more desperate” situation as they don’t have the means or support to make more money.

Isn’t there something awful about our society, which is very, very rich, that so many people are praying for a house of their own and not getting it? I think it’s just awful.

Figures released by the Department of Housing last month showed there were 5,837 adults and 3,267 children categorised as homeless or living in emergency accommodation in January.

Alone Jason Clarke Photography Titi Rose Thompson, Christopher Jackson, Vincent Browne and Noel Murphy at today's launch Jason Clarke Photography

Browne said the government needs to build more houses to help deal with the deepening housing crisis.

I don’t understand why they just don’t go and build a huge number of houses. We need about 100,000 houses in the next three to four years.

“Just build 30,000 or 40,000 houses, if the State did it we’d have a chance of dealing with the problem, but if they don’t do it, it won’t happen.”

Noel’s story 

At the age of 68, Noel Murphy found himself in a situation where he never thought he would: homeless.

After he retired from his job as a security guard and his marriage broke down, Noel was unable to find somewhere to rent and was moving from hostel to hostel for about two years.

In the last hostel he stayed in he had his own room but he previously shared a room with several other people. He said staff at these hostels “do their best” but “have to run a tight ship” and sometimes came into the room unannounced during the day or night to check what was happening.

Noel, now 71, said this was very difficult as he had no privacy and was living with people he didn’t know.

A lot of homeless people on the street today, they feel safer in a shop doorway than they do going into a place that they don’t know.

Things started to turn around for Noel when Dublin City Council put him in touch with Alone. He now lives at Willie Bermingham Place, where Alone houses dozens of older people.

“I’m very happy to be down there, I’m one of the fortunate ones because not everybody is that lucky to get into a place where you get all the supports you need.”

From late 2015 to early 2018, the number of housing applications received by Alone more than doubled. The charity receives about 20 applications for every available home, and there are 174 people currently on its waiting list.

“I’ve a small studio apartment and it’s ideal for me,” Noel said, adding that it’s great to have a place where his three-year-old grandaughter can visit him.

“She comes over to see the ducks in the river, it’s a tranquil place. Exotic little birds come up in the summer, they swim up the river.

It means the world to have my own home, it’s a totally different life altogether. I hate even to think of the hostel situation and going back to that and hopefully I never will have to.

“There’s no place like your own hall door, you know, that you can call your own.”

Titi Rose Thompson was also at today’s launch. The 67-year-old lives in private rented accommodation but is waiting to be rehomed by Dublin City Council.

She said the house she has lived in for the last six years is being sold by the landlord. She lives with six other people and said there are several issues with the property.

“The house is so old and damp and there’s no heating,” she told us.

Titi suffers from arthritis and is very worried about finding somewhere else she can afford to rent once the house is sold. She said organisations like Alone need more support to help older people who find themselves facing housing issues or struggling to pay rent.

In its Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan, the government states that the ageing population “represents one of the most significant demographic and societal developments that Ireland faces in the years ahead”.

The implications for public policy in areas such as housing, health and urban and rural planning are considerable. Government policy is to support older people to live with dignity and independence in their own homes and communities for as long as possible.

The report notes that older people have “specific housing requirements such as being in proximity to their family and social networks and the need for access to public and other essential services, recreation and amenities”.

The government said it is working with local authorities and the HSE to help achieve this.

Read: Dublin City Council proposing to stop prioritising homeless families for housing lists

Read: Extra beds for rough sleepers as temperatures dip to below freezing

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