The Government must be “pushed” to enshrine housing in the constitution as the housing crisis becomes a “catastrophe”, according to a bishop and campaigners.
Speaking after an event involving Ireland’s Christian Churches on homelessness, Bishop Alan McGuckian of Raphoe said having a home is as fundamental as the right to life and education.
“It’s a year since our council wrote strongly on this highlighting that housing really is a human right. We should be pushing our Government to recognise that, that’s down to all of us,” Bishop McGuckian told The Irish Catholic.
“The housing crisis has disimproved in the last 12 months and as we heard today there’s no promise that anything is going to change to make it better, it’s going to get worse.”
Leading housing activist Fr Peter McVerry said the crisis “is going to become a catastrophe and we as Church have to make a response to that”. He was speaking at the call to action for churches on the housing crisis organised by ecumenical group Irish Inter-Church and the Irish Council of Churches.
A Bible study resource was launched aimed at promoting reflection on the attitudes that exacerbate and perpetuate the problems of homelessness and housing insecurity called ‘In Six Months A Lot Can Change’.
Fr McVerry said the only homeless people who are visible are rough sleepers, which shapes a perception of homeless people which must be tackled “amongst our congregations”.
“That is so unfair on the vast majority of homeless people who only have one problem, they don’t have enough money to pay for their own accommodation,” he said.
“If we could get the right to housing in the constitution, that doesn’t mean the following day everybody can go up to Dublin City Council or wherever and demand a home, no of course not, but it does give a priority to housing in Government policy and it does impose on them an obligation to produce policies that over a period of maybe 10 or 15 years would ensure that the right to housing is given to every person living in this country.”
According to official figures there were 10,275 people homeless in the week of July 22–28 July this year across Ireland. The number of homeless families has increased by 178% since June 2015 and more than one in three people in emergency accommodation is a child.