SEVENTY people were homeless in Clare in February, new statistics from the Department of Housing show. It is an increase from 64, the figure recorded for January.
Tracey Reddy of Mid-West Simon said that the problem is not being tackled in this part of the country. “The numbers are increasing on a month-by-month basis, they’re rising. The rise is consistent. We did see a small fall-off some months ago but this month brings us back to the increases we’ve seen over the last 18 to 24 months.”
Policy measures that were intended to reduce homelessness just haven’t worked so far, Ms Reddy added, while she said that the problem is definitely not just confined to the capital. “I know the Government are saying they are stopping families entering homelessness but any family that enters homelessness is one too many. The trend just
isn’t reversing. The numbers entering aren’t matching the numbers leaving homelessness and that’s worrying. It’s worrying for a rural county like Clare because what it tells us is that the rural areas are having the same experience as Dublin and the more urban areas but it doesn’t seem to be getting the same kind of airplay. A lot of the media attention nationally tends to focus on the bigger urban areas, particularly Dublin. There’s no doubt about it.”
The factors that are leading to an increase in homelessness are no different to those that affect other areas. “It’s the same thing that’s leading people into homelessness everywhere else; it has to do with supply. There just simply isn’t rented accommodation out there. We now have more people renting in Ireland than we ever did before, which is soaking up the rental supply. The other side of it is that the cost of the rental market, it leaves the people we work with behind because they just can’t afford it. HAP and rent supplement do not meet the market rates; they just don’t meet it. The other thing is you’re just not seeing the supply of social housing coming on stream as quickly as you would need it to.”
She said that landlords are increasingly opting to sell their properties, which results in tenants being evicted, while she said that the extension of rental pressure zones to the whole country would provide some more certainty for tenants.
In years to come, many people will bear the human cost of the policy failures, she feels. “There are long-term effects
of homelessness on children; we can’t even quantify that at the moment. I’m not scaremongering. I really genuinely believe we’re going to have a generation of children growing into adulthood who will be traumatised beyond what we can imagine. Living in hubs, hotels, they are not places for children to be growing up in.”
Nationally, the Department of Housing statistics showed that 6,480 adults and 3,784 dependants were homeless in February.
Reacting to the figures, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said, “The increase in homelessness in February is hugely disappointing. Our plans to fix the supply of both social and private housing are working and this is borne out by the most recent build figures. The latest RTB report also shows rent falling at the end of 2018 and yet still we see more people entering emergency accommodation.”