Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has said that tackling the homelessness crisis would be a "social imperative" of the next government.

He said it was not acceptable that the emergency accommodation being provided for homeless people was "not fit for purpose".

He said the current Coalition had come into power at a time when the "entire housing market had collapsed". 

He added that homelessness had been the Government's "first social priority" as soon as funding became available.

The minister's comments follow an RTÉ One programme aired last night which featured three homeless families living in emergency accommodation. 

The CEO of children's charity Barnardos has said the consequences for children who become homeless can be life-long and devastating.

Speaking on RTÉ's Six One News, Fergus Finlay said children are being robbed of basic stability and security, adding that it can lead to children dropping out of education and getting involved in illegal activity.

He said that parents are going to significant lengths to avoid homelessness, such as squeezing into significantly overcrowded accommodation. 

"People will squeeze into significantly overcrowded accommodation to try to avoid homelessness. There is a kind of myth out there that people will become homeless in order to get a council house - nothing could be further from the truth," Mr Finlay said. 

"People will go to any lengths to avoid homelessness, particurlarly for their children. The consequences for children can be devastating," he added. 

Focus Ireland's Director of Advocacy Mike Allen described the programme, 'My Homeless Family', as "shocking" and said while positive steps have been taken to ease the homeless crisis, things are moving too slowly. 

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Allen said NAMA is to build 10,000 homes over the next number of years, only 10% of which will be social housing.

He said if half of these homes were made available to homeless families it would end the problem. 

He said that no one chooses to become homeless and live in a hotel room voluntarily.

Mr Allen said he did not believe an increase in rent supplements would have caused rents to increase any faster than they did last over the last year.

The Children's Rights Alliance has called for an immediate child protection and welfare audit to be carried out in all properties used as emergency accommodation.

CRA Chief Executive Tanya Ward said such an audit could be started tomorrow.

She added governments should have been dealing with the homeless crisis since 2008.

Chief Executive of the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive Cathal Morgan said the longest people should stay in emergency accommodation is six months but added that this would not be possible in all cases. 

He said the homelessness situation appears to have stabilised in Dublin and that last year 1,056 households found tenancies with the support of the local authorities and homeless services.

In 2014 just over 700 households were taken out of homelessness which he said showed that progress was being made.

Mr Morgan said the executive really believes people should get behind the idea of modular housing.

He added that modular housing is "not the only game in town" but believed people would be pleasantly surprised by the quality of accommodation.

Minister says situation is unacceptable

Speaking on RTÉ's Claire Byrne Live last night, the Minister of State with responsibility for Housing said it was unacceptable and unsustainable to have homeless people living in hotels.

Paudie Coffey said the situation was an emergency.

Mr Coffey said 2,000 people have exited homelessness over the past year and the Government has provided 13,000 additional housing units and committed €4bn to tackle the issue in the next five years.

He said that in 6,000 individual cases rent supplement was increased because of personal circumstances.

He added the first phase of modular homes will be provided next month.

Speaking on the same programme, Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Ruth Coppinger admitted the Government had inherited a bad situation, but said they made it worse.

She said the Coalition spent less on social housing than anyone else in the past 25 years.

Ms Coppinger said the fact that just 28 social houses were built in the first quarter of this year showed the Government were ideologically opposed to such schemes.

In a statement, Richard Boyd Barrett TD, for the People Before Profit Alliance, labelled Minister Howlin's comments "utterly worthless and infuriating."

Deputy Boyd Barrett said that "five years ago, the same coalition promised to end homelessness by 2016 and instead helped generate the worst housing and homelessness crisis in living memory."

Reality of documentary 'tragic and depressing'

The head of advocacy with Barnados has said that last night's RTÉ documentary My Homeless Family was "sad, tragic and depressing" but reflected an unfortunate reality for families across the country. 

June Tinsley told RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke that hundreds of children were going without the childhood every child should have.

She said that Barnados projects across the country had noticed families were trying to avoid entering homelessness by living with family members - often in over-crowded accommodation.

Ms Tinsley added that children thrive on routine and consistency and that removing that is detrimental to their development.

The programme also heard from broadcast journalist Evelyn O'Rourke, who has investigated the homeless crisis extensively for RTÉ.

Hear Ms O'Rourke and Ms Tinsley's thoughts here...

Mike Allen of Focus Ireland discussed the homeless crisis on Morning Ireland...