Homeless charity sees 18% increase in calls for help

Wednesday 27 November 2013 19.20
Focus Ireland wants effective measures put in place to prevent people losing their homes
Focus Ireland wants effective measures put in place to prevent people losing their homes

Focus Ireland has called for more effective measures to protect people from becoming homeless after it saw an 18% increase in calls for help in the first ten months of this year.

The charity also registered an increase of 43% in the number of people seeking advice on how to prevent them losing their homes.

So far this year, Focus Ireland has supported 9,237 people who were either homeless or at risk of losing their home, which is up from 7,819 during the same period last year.

The charity has also seen an increase in the numbers seeking its Housing Advice services, which is up from 2,973 to 4,248 since last year.

Ahead of its annual conference in Dublin today, Focus Ireland called for urgent action to stem family homelessness and to deliver affordable homes to those in need.

The charity said more people are at serious risk of losing their homes due to the recession.

In Dublin, the number of homeless families recently doubled from eight to 16 every month, affecting nearly 200 children.

The conference will discuss new solutions to increase housing supply and to assist those who are homeless to move into independent, stable, secure accommodation.

Focus Ireland Chief Executive Joyce Loughnan said it estimates that 3,000 housing units are needed to address long-term homelessness.

Acknowledging that the Government has invested in improving the quality of emergency accommodation, the charity said a majority of people remain in B&Bs or other accommodation for up to two years.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Ms Loughnan said 173 families in Dublin had become homeless this year and "we're now finding about 16 families every month becoming homeless, that's five children every week losing their homes".

She said the National Asset Management Agency has failed to deliver on its promise of making 2,000 housing units available.

Ms Loughnan said: "There are a lot of void properties that are owned by the local authorities that could be renovated and made fit for purpose."

She said at least 3,000 homes are needed and some homeless families have been living in B&Bs for over a decade.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald raised the issue of homelessness in the Dáil this afternoon.

Ms McDonald asked when the Government was going to give sufficient funding to ensure that no family will be forced to sleep rough.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the issue is difficult to sort out, but the Government is committed to tackling it.

In a statement, NAMA said it is committed to playing its part in providing homes for people who need them and has identified and made available over 4,000 houses and apartments for social housing to local authorities and the Housing Agency.

It said 2,000 of those properties have so far been identified as being acceptable for social housing.

NAMA said Focus Ireland was given details of 136 properties in Dublin, Cork and Kildare, but these were declined because the charity said they did not meet its specific requirements.

It said it understands that the Housing Agency has recently notified Focus Ireland that an additional 72 NAMA properties may be suitable and is in negotiations in relation to potential leasing up to 19 properties in Co Kilkenny.

In response, Focus Ireland said the charity had turned down over 130 units offered by NAMA, but had clarified with the agency that it was the local authorities who had deemed them unsuitable for use as social housing.

It said all sides have acknowledged there are difficulties in delivering the promised social housing under NAMA, but the charity is continuing to work with the agency on the issue.