Tuesday, January 03, 2017

‘Unprecedented’ 7,000 people are officially homeless

An “unprecedented” 7,000 people are homeless in Ireland, with one family losing their home every day last month, and a shocking 2,549 children living in emergency accommodation.

The Department of Housing confirmed the situation yesterday amid opposition party claims the Government is trying to “bury bad news” during the New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Details released as part of the department’s latest homelessness update report show that at the end of November, a total of 6,985 people were officially considered homeless in Ireland.

The rate includes 4,436 adults, 2,549 children and 1,205 families nationwide, and means there are now 20% more adults homeless in Ireland and 30% more families and children homeless compared to November 2015.

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According to the official figures, which do not include unofficial counts, people in Tusla (the child and family agency) facilities and others in State and private domestic violence support centres who cannot safely return to their homes:

  • 3,024 adults, 1,023 families and 2,110 children are now homeless in Dublin;
  • 287 adults, 40 families and 104 children in the South West;
  • 74 adults, 22 families and 55 children in the Midlands.
In addition, between October and November, 27 more families and 79 children became homeless.

And while charities and campaign groups have previously warned that more than 7,000 people are without a home nationwide, the 6,985 latest figure is the first time Ireland’s homelessness crisis has officially reached such levels.

The department said while there have been “significant increases in the rates of homelessness in recent times” the “root cause” remains a shortage of accommodation.

However, Sinn Féin housing spokesman, Eoin Ó Broin claimed the rates are the direct result of inaction by Government and that the release of the latest update hours before the New Year’s Eve celebrations is “an attempt to bury bad news”.

The situation comes a fortnight after Housing Minister Simon Coveney announced plans to limit rent increases in Dublin and Cork, and as the Apollo House campaign continues to gather attention.

The takeover of Apollo House was organised by the Home Sweet Home campaign — a grouping of various trade unionists and the Irish Housing Network.

There is now a “wellness team” in situ at Apollo House to aid residents who would otherwise be sleeping rough.

“We’re here to support the residents.

“A lot of them have been sleeping rough or going from hostel to hostel, and they’re in a state of overwhelm, so just to kind of allow them time to relax and unwind.

“Lorna is doing foot massages; I’m doing activation techniques, which is helping their muscles to release their tension, and helping them to breath better,” said Beverly, one of the volunteers.

“We’ve also got a massage therapist coming in. And I’m also here to support the volunteer staff, who are here working really really long hours, to help them get through the days and nights,” she added.

Residents of Apollo House, have until January 11 by a High Court order, to vacate the building.

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