The Government’s strategy to tackle family homelessness is nothing more than an “outdated promise” and a “stack of press statements” according to Sr Stanislaus Kennedy of Focus Ireland.
Describing last year as the worst year of homelessness in the history of the State, the leading campaigner poured ridicule on the Government’s response to the crisis, and called for a serious and ambitious plan.
“The Government has no strategy to tackle family homelessness; all it has is an outdated promise in Rebuilding Ireland and a stack of press statements. We urgently need a coherent, joined up and ambitious strategy to tackle this issue,” she told The Irish Catholic.
“A government strategy would require the Government to take the decisions it has shied away from for several years,” she continued. “This includes actively building social housing, ensuring that bank restructuring does not come at the cost of mass homelessness, taxing those who hoard building land and protecting the rights of tenants facing eviction.”
Her comments came after heavy snowfall and plummeting temperatures exposed the inadequacy of Government measures to keep homeless people alive and to house families in ‘family hubs’, temporary emergency accommodation for families which have self-contained bedrooms and bathrooms, she said.
“The Government admits that hubs are only a ‘first response’ but there is still no sign of them delivering a second, substantive response which is adequate to the crisis we are facing,” she said, criticising the Government’s “continued emphasis” on the delivery of hubs rather than permanent homes.
In contrast to the Government’s response, the Focus Ireland founder praised Focus staff who braved the elements in some of the counties worst affected by the clashing of Storm Emma and the Beast from the East, providing hundreds of people with hot meals, advice and support while encouraging others to come off the street and avail of emergency services.
“Our staff were amazing during this terrible weather,” she said. “Many walked to work or stayed in the city centres around the country so Focus Ireland could keep our frontline services going. They all went the extra mile to be there to make sure everyone was looked after and safe.”
Days before the storm, the Government announced that a record 9,104 men, women and children were homeless across Ireland.
Afterwards, the Department of Housing declared that even though conditions have improved cold weather arrangements will be kept under ongoing review in the main urban areas, with the Dublin Region Homeless Executive keeping contingency beds in the system for the time being.