Politicians should work together to end homeless crisis

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WITH a single-party government a most unlikely outcome of the upcoming election, a Limerick-based charity is urging political parties and independent TDs to work together to implement urgent solutions to the housing and homeless crisis.

The Novas agency works with people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and its Head of Policy Dr Una Burns believes that a cross-party approach rooted in increasing supply is required to stem the tide of people losing their homes.

“We need around 35,000 new houses each year which must include a mixture of private, social, affordable and cost rental,” she said.

“The type and location of housing must consider current household composition. With single households comprising almost 24 per cent of all households in the country, we require smaller units, one and two-beds.

“While homelessness is complex, the proliferation of the issue since 2014 is rooted in the lack of housing, particularly social housing provided by the state. Addressing the supply issue takes time but it must be accelerated and social housing must replace HAP as the primary means of social housing support in the country.”

Dr Burns went on to say that enshrining the Right to Housing in the Constitution is also fundamental in addressing the housing crisis. While in isolation, it will not solve the problem, she explains that it provides a floor of protection in respect of basic housing.

“The Irish Constitution does not even provide for the Right to Shelter, which is at the discretion of local authorities.”

She went on to cite an example of Scotland, where a family can spend no longer than seven days in emergency accommodation, compared to the situation here “where families can languish for months and even years in emergency accommodation”.

“We are urging all parties to commit to developing a National Homeless Family Strategy, to reduce the trauma and adverse childhood experiences children and teenagers are exposed to through protracted periods of homelessness.”