An average of 85 families a month became homeless last year

Fr Peter McVerry was speaking to Ivan Yates

Homeless, Dublin, increase, social housing, Fr Peter McVerry, Simon Community,

Fr Peter McVerry of the Peter McVerry Trust | Image: RollingNews.ie

On average, 85 families became homeless every month in 2016, according to homelessness campaigner Fr Peter McVerry.

Calling the problem "out of control" on Yates On Sunday, he said more radical proposals need to be looked at to end the crisis.

"There are almost 200,000 empty houses and apartments boarded up," he said. "That's more than enough to solve, not just the homeless problem, but the whole social housing problem.

"It's absurd that somebody can sit on an empty property while families are in need of housing."

He welcomed the government's efforts with the Help To Buy scheme, but said that now a 'compulsory purchase scheme' must be considered.

"One of my criticisms of the Minister's [Simon Coveney] plan is that it has very little in it to reduce the flow of people or families into homelessness. The vast majority of people becoming homeless today are coming from the private rental sector.

"The rent supplement is still too low [...] The Minister has introduced a cap in certain areas, but my question to the Minister is - who's salary is going to go up by 12% over the next three years?

"I think we need a rent cap which enables the landlord only to raise the rents in line with inflation. That gives the landlord reasonable return, but it also give security to the tenants."

McVerry added that legislation preventing people from being evicted into homelessness is required.

"At the end of the day, under current legislation, the banks have all the power," he said. "And at the end of the day, they can get those people, repossess the house and get them out."

Simon Coveney

On his feelings towards Minister for Housing Simon Coveney, Fr Peter McVerry said he respects him.

"I think Simon Coveney is a good man," he said. "I think he's tried very hard to address this problem."

"I think his plan is the most detailed and comprehensive we've seen."

However, he maintained that two issues remained in Coveney's Rebuilding Ireland plan - the lack of protection for people already in rental accommodation, and the reliance on the private rental sector to prevent homelessness.

Emergency accommodation

As homelessness levels reach record highs, campaigners have been forced to turn affected families away due to a lack of emergency accommodation.

A new record high of over 7,600 people were homeless in April according to the latest figures from the Department of Housing.

The statistics show that more than 2,700 of these are children, making it the 13th consecutive month that the number of people in need of emergency accommodation has risen.

There are now 1,300 families homeless in Ireland - an increase of 26% on April 2016.

"There were no hotel rooms, there were no emergency beds for 11 families, and the only thing on offer for you is to go the Garda station, and we had to give that advice as the only recourse," Mike Allen of Focus Ireland told Newstalk Breakfast.

"They go to the Garda stations, they're told 'nothing we can do, we'd have to arrest you'. Sometimes they're put in a place in a security by the guards. Very often, the families won't go to the Garda station."