People who paid their water charges are being urged to donate their refunds to charities tackling the homeless crisis.
€173m will be handed back to almost one million customers over the coming months.
As Irish Water prepares to begin issuing cheques, three of Ireland’s foremost homeless charities have launched a new national advertising and public information campaign urging those that can afford to donate, to do so.
The Simon Communities, Focus Ireland and the Peter McVerry Trust have joined forces to form ‘The Refund Project.’
Campaigners have said that even a fraction of the water refunds due could help make an enormous difference in the delivery of much needed housing.
The campaign will be overseen by a ‘special oversight group’ chaired by the former head of the Workplace Relations Commission, Kieran Mulvey.
He said homelessness is the “greatest social problem facing post-recession Ireland.”
“We are hoping that Irish people when they see the level of the refund – it may not as big as they expected – that they would give us the benefit of that generosity so we can put it towards the most important cause in our country.”
The latest government figures revealed that there was a record 8,374 homeless people in Ireland at the end of September.
The figure includes 3,124 children.
A number of homeless charities have urged the Government to declare a national emergency in response to the crisis, amid warnings that there will be further deaths on the streets if emergency winter beds are not brought into service ahead of schedule.
Mr Mulvey said the new campaign can help “create a lasting and more positive outcome to the negative legacy of the recession years and provide that most fundamental of rights - a home.”
He said it provides a “simple but compelling appeal for those who can afford it, to play their part in combating the crisis:
“Think community, think nation and think of the people who have lost out because of the excesses of others and refund that cheque to this project – the Refund Project – to build homes for people so they can live in security and so that their children can grow up in an appropriate environment,” he said.
In a joint statement the three charities warned that the campaign “will not lessen in any way the responsibility of government and policy makers to drive forward the national homelessness strategy.”
“For many - including those struggling to keep a roof over their heads - the refund of water charges will help making ends meet," they said.
"For others who are more fortunate; it will be a welcome windfall - and it is to those that we will direct this appeal.
"For our part – we are coming together to create a national charitable campaign to enable the public to easily donate their refunded monies towards this hugely worthwhile project.”
Further details on how people can donate and the projects the funds will be used for are due to be announced in the coming weeks.