Focus Ireland helped record number of people in 2016

A deadline to stop hotels being used as emergency accommodation is just days away

Focus Ireland helped record number of people in 2016

File photo of the offices of Focus Ireland in Dublin | Image: Rollingnews.ie

The homeless charity Focus Ireland says it supported a record number of over 13,500 people in 2016.

The group, which is publishing its annual report on Thursday, says a shift in direction is needed away from 'managing homelessness' towards ending the crisis.

It comes as Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy officially opened the charity's new 28 unit housing development at Harold’s Cross in Dublin.

The development at Greenmount Close provides new homes for people who are elderly or have disabled needs - and were previously homeless or at risk.

The land was donated by the Sisters of Charity and the project was funded by the Department of Housing.

Focus Ireland chairperson, Gerry Danaher, said the new homes have been provided under the charity’s strategy target to provide 600 more homes by 2020.

"I am proud to say we got off to a good start by delivering 135 new homes in 2016 compared to 35 the previous year.

"By the end of 2016 Focus Ireland owned or managed a total of 820 housing units for people who were homeless or at risk."

Hotel deadline

The charity says is looks forward to working with the new housing minister towards easing and ending the housing and homelessness crisis.

However, Mr Danaher stressed that to achieve this requires persistence, energy and a shift of direction.

"We are committed to working with Minister Murphy to tackle and prevent homelessness. We firmly believe that homelessness is wrong.

"Focus Ireland maintains that there needs to be a firm shift away from managing the issue of homelessness towards ending the crisis."

Sr Stanislaus Kennedy at the Focus Ireland annual report event in 2014 | Image: Photocall Ireland

The group has also highlighted that a deadline to ensure hotels are only used in limited circumstances for emergency accommodation is just eight days away.

"While we recognise the need for decent short-term emergency accommodation for families. However, let us be clear. No form of emergency accommodation provides a home or an end to homelessness for any family or individuals.

"At present there is no timeframe in place so these families know there is a clear end in sight for the trauma of homelessness they are currently going through each day."

Minister Murphy has said this deadline of July 1st will be missed.

Renting empty houses

Focus Ireland said it welcomes the minister’s announcement his department is holding a review to be concluded in three months.

Focus Ireland founder Sr Stanislaus Kennedy says there are a number of actions that can be taken now.

"Access to housing could be improved by introducing more incentives for people to rent out empty houses and to stop developers hoarding building land by having penalties for those who do so.

"We also need to introduce binding legislation to fully protect tenants against financial institutions and vulture funds foreclosing on buy-to let properties.

"We know from our frontline services that this is now a major cause of homelessness."