Almost 10,000 people are now homeless across the country
Thousands of people are expected to turn out for a major national demonstration against homelessness tomorrow.
Latest figures show almost 10,000 people are now homeless across the country.
Following the publication of the latest figures last week, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar admitted the situation was a national emergency - however campaigners have warned that a full action place needs to be put in place to deal with the crisis.
The National Homeless and Housing demonstration will begin at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin at 1pm on Saturday.
The protest is run by the National Homeless and Housing Coalition - which includes homeless campaigners like the Peter McVerry trust, Focus Ireland, the Simon Communities and host of trade unions.
Speaking this morning, Fr McVerry said: “Following the publication of figures last week showing that homelessness has reached a new record level, the Taoiseach finally acknowledged that the country is facing a housing emergency.”
“However, there has been no indication from the Government as to the scale or urgency of the actions it is prepared to take to deal with that emergency - which is having such a harmful impact on the lives of so many people.”
He noted that recent months have seen the Government promptly setting up national emergency response committees to respond to severe weather events – and pointed to the emergency response that was put in place to deal with the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in 2001.
“Where is the national emergency response committee for the housing emergency that is now, at last, being officially recognised but which has, in fact, been a reality for several years?” he asked.
He said an emergency plan is “clearly needed” which will outline “both immediate and more long-term measures to stem the continuing inflow into homelessness and to address the factors that have made housing less affordable and more insecure for an ever-growing number of households in Ireland.”
“That plan should be based on the principle that housing is a right of every person, not a privilege reserved to the well-off.”
The Inner City Helping Homeless charity said there has been a 100% increase in homeless children over the past two years, and called for “big numbers to take to the streets to show the government that this won't be accepted any longer.”
The charity’s CEO Anthony Flynn said the march is an “opportunity for those worst affected by homelessness to show those in power that enough is enough.”
“The Minister’s response to date is far from what is expected to tackle the crisis,” he said.
“We have a national emergency at hand and the government are failing to deal with that emergency.
“Homelessness is the biggest crisis to hit us as a society, people need homes and the government need to provide them. ICHH are asking for people to take to the streets in solidarity with those experiencing homelessness.
“We need to show the government that homelessness is not normal."
Meanwhile, Labour Party Councillor Dermot Lacey has been defending the party's decision to participate in the march - after criticism of Labour’s housing policies when in government.
“We didn’t do enough and I fully accept that,” he said.
“But if tomorrow is about the issue of housing - and that is what I want it to be and that is what the vast majority of people involved want it to be - let’s put aside our party political differences for tomorrow.”
Father McVerry has called on the Government to introduce a range of measures to combat the ciris.
He said legislator must move to ban “banks, vulture funds and landlords” from evicting tenants for a period of three years, “except in extreme circumstances such as refusal to pay rent or antisocial behaviour.”
He said it is time for the Government to recognise that the entire country is now a ‘rent pressure zone’ and to immediately link rent increases to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
He also called for the use of the Mortgage to Rent scheme to be maximised and for financial institutions to be forced to participate, except in exceptional circumstances.
Finally he called for the introduction of an escalating tax on properties left empty without reason – and ultimately legislation making empty properties liable for compulsory purchase by local authorities.
“In the medium term there needs to be a massive increase in the provision of social housing by local authorities and voluntary bodies,” he said.
“There is a significant amount of serviced land in public ownership which could be used to provide social housing, as well as cost-rental, affordable and co-operative housing,” he said.
He said the Government policy of relying on rent subsidisation in the private rental sector was costing the state €2m every day – “while the tenants who are so assisted have little security, even in the short-term, and are frequently living in sub-standard accommodation.”