herald

Sunday 11 December 2016

Raise rent allowance to curb homelessness epidemic, says Simon

Niamh Randall national spokesperson for the Simon Communities & Glenn Gannon
Niamh Randall national spokesperson for the Simon Communities & Glenn Gannon

The current homeless crisis is an "epidemic" and the Government response to it is inadequate, according to the Simon Communities who have warned that "people will die on our streets".

The nationwide network launched its pre-budget submission for 2016 yesterday, and said that rent allowance and housing supports need to be increased to meet sky-rocketing rents.

Early intervention to prevent homelessness, ensuring that people can access affordable accommodation and supporting them when they are rehoused were deemed "critical priorities" by the organisation.

Streets

Simon volunteer Glenn Gannon slept on the streets of Dublin for more than three years in the 1990s, but said that he had never seen homelessness reach current levels.

"People will die on our streets. We have said this in the past, and it has happened," he warned.

"There are many, many more victims, and the victims who are alive at this moment in time may not be alive in the New Year if something is not done immediately," he added. "This is not a situation. This is an epidemic.

"As we move into the centenary of the foundation of the State, I am pleading on behalf of the nation to help our people on the streets and try to help them so that they will not be found dead in a doorway."

Last December homeless man Jonathan Corrie was found dead on a street near Dail Eireann.

According to Simon Communities, the number of properties available to rent has plummeted by 80pc since 2009, while rental prices have increased by more than 20pc since June 2013. Despite this, rent allowance limits have not increased since then.

There are currently 3,285 adults and 1,383 children using emergency accommodation in Ireland. In total, 657 families are sheltered in this temporary accommodation.

On one night in March 2015, there were 151 people without a safe place to sleep in Dublin city.

Simon spokeswoman Niamh Randall said that "figures are just going through the roof."

While Ms Randall said that emergency accommodation still needed funding to cope with demand, she stressed that emergency accommodation could not be seen as the answer to homelessness.

Devastating

"It is not a place for people to spend any lengthy period," she said. "The impact on their overall health and well-being is absolutely devastating.

"The impact on adults is enormous, but I can't even imagine the impact on children".

She also called on members of the public to join their campaign and write to Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Joan Burton to highlight the issue.

"What we are seeing is an insufficient response from Government.

"It's not being taken seriously enough," she said.

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