“There are families living in hotels for longer than ministers are staying in charge of housing.” That is the view of Focus Ireland’s manager in Cork, Ger Spillane, speaking after the announcement of Eoghan Murphy as the new Minister for Housing.
“What we are looking for is continuity. The most recent action plan for housing and homelessness, Rebuilding Ireland, is already 12 months old and now the Minister has announced a review of it, set to take three months.
“It seem like there is a lot of talk about homelessness but very little action.” A spokesperson for Mr Murphy said: “The Minister’s top priority is to ensure that virtually all homeless families accommodated in commercial hotels at the end of May will, in the coming weeks, either have left their hotel accommodation or have been notified of the alternative accommodation they will move to.
“Since Rebuilding Ireland was launched just under a year ago over 1,200 families have exited or have been prevented from entering hotel accommodation. This is a very significant figure achieved by ambitious targets.” Mr Spillane said they were disappointed to see previous minister Simon Coveney leave the role.
“Simon had given a huge commitment to tackle housing and homelessness. He was one of the best, he had been down to Cork and met with homeless people and seen the issues.
“We welcome Eoghan Murphy but it does mean we are starting again with a new minister.” The spokesperson also reaffirmed the minister’s commitment to solving the problem throughout Ireland, saying: “Eoghan Murphy is Minister for Housing for the entire country - his focus remains country-wide.” Focus Ireland launched its Annual Report yesterday, showing the charity had supported a record number of people in 2016.
The charity is concerned that the Government's policy seems to be focused on managing homelessness rather than working to eradicate the problem.
Mr Spillane echoed comments from Focus Ireland founder Sister Stanislaus Kennedy, who said yesterday: “We need to introduce binding legislation to fully protect tenants against financial institutions and vulture funds foreclosing on buy-to let properties. We know from our frontline services that this is now a major cause of homelessness.
“The government voted down legislation last year to stop evictions of tenants in buy-to-let properties that are being sold (Fianna Fáil abstained). We believe if the legislation had been passed as many of 20 of the families who became homeless in Dublin every month would still have a home.”
Mr Spillane added: The European Observatory on Homelessness estimated it costs €29,000 per year to maintain every homeless person in Ireland. That is just bed and board, it doesn’t take into account any additional services they many need as a result of homelessness. It would be cheaper and society would benefit if we could keep people in their homes.”