Charity concerned by ‘unacceptable’ levels of family homelessness

More than 8,000 people were recorded as homeless at the end of April.
Charity concerned by ‘unacceptable’ levels of family homelessness

By Michelle Devane, PA

Family homelessness remains at “unacceptable levels”, a leading homeless charity has said.

Focus Ireland said it was “deeply concerned” that the number of families entering homelessness at the end of April had increased.

It welcomed the recent debates about the housing sector but warned against treating the housing and homeless crisis as a series of unrelated crises requiring panic reactions.

The organisation added that a “joined-up”, consistent approach is required which recognises that families and individuals who are homeless are suffering the worst impact of the crisis and need to be at the heart of the solution.

It comes as more than 8,000 people were recorded as homeless, according to the latest Government figures.

A total of 8,082 people, including 5,889 adults and 2,193 children, were homeless at the end of April, up 22 on the previous month.

The data, which was published on Friday, also showed the number of homeless families had increased to 925, up from 213 in March.

Focus Ireland chief executive Pat Dennigan said the organisation was “deeply concerned” by the increase.

“Family homelessness remains at totally unacceptable levels,” Mr Dennigan said.

“We must make sure that the Government’s new ‘Housing for All’ strategy, due to be published this summer, at last genuinely recognises the unique needs of families who are homeless and their children – and includes real measures to address them.

“The number of families homeless [at] under 1,000 is more than four times the level it was in 2014, when the then minister for housing Jan O’Sullivan declared it an ‘emergency crisis’.”

The charity described the Government’s decision to lift eviction protections for families in the midst of the pandemic as both “heartless and highly risky”.

It fears a new round of evictions will lead to a “sharp rise” in the number of families losing their homes.

The eviction ban ended on April 22nd following a 10-day grace period.

Focus Ireland believes the eviction moratorium should be reintroduced for six months while lockdown restrictions are gradually relaxed.

Mr Dennigan said: “The decision to prioritise the desires of landlords rather than the risk to families is premature and contradicts all the ‘abundance of caution’ advice which is being applied in every other area.

“The Government’s continued insistence that the eviction ban is still in place may cause a lot of confusion – while a limited number of tenants who are in arrears due to Covid-19 are still protected, tenants with valid leases who are up to date with their rent can now be evicted through no fault of their own if their landlord wants to sell.”

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