herald

Wednesday 22 January 2020

'Homeless can have a bed if they want' - Leo

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Tom Honan/PA
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Tom Honan/PA

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said any rough sleeper who wants a bed this Christmas will be able to get one.

Mr Varadkar has also mounted a fresh defence of the Government's record in addressing the housing and homelessness crisis, claiming there will be 20,000 families around the table on Christmas Day this year in homes that did not exist a year ago.

At a pre-Christmas briefing with journalists, Mr Varadkar said he would not be volunteering to help the homeless this Christmas Day, but had visited family hubs and been out with Safety Net, a mobile health unit run by trainee GPs for rough sleepers, in the past.

Shelter

"I'm sure it's something I'll do again in the future," he said.

"I would point out that we have managed to reduce rough sleeping considerably in the past year or so and we do have shelter for anyone that wants it.

"And we're going to do our best to make sure that they know that and that they do come in and that they are offered that shelter.

"And I will be conscious as well on Christmas Day that in the past year more than 20,000 new homes and new apartments were built in Ireland, so there will be 20,000 families around the table on Christmas Day in a home that didn't exist a year ago.

"And if we're going to solve the problem of homelessness and the housing crisis, we need to build a lot more homes next year and I'm targeting 25,000 new homes being built next year, including 11,000 for people in need of social housing."

Mr Varadkar said he would be "doing something" on Christmas Day, but said it was not related to homelessness and would be a private event.

"I'll talk about that some other time," he said, adding he did not want there to be a media scrum.

Mr Varadkar visited Cork University Hospital on Christmas Day last year.

It came a few weeks after he had suggested hospital staff taking time off over Christmas was part of the reason for hospital overcrowding.

Many health workers posted pictures of themselves working over the festive period on social media in response to the comments.

Last week, Mr Varadkar acknowledged the difficulties faced by some families at Christmas and the many people who have to work over the festive period.

"I will certainly be acknowledging on Christmas Day the fact that for a lot of people it's not going to be a very pleasant day and for a lot of people it's going to be a day of work, because a lot of people need to work on Christmas Day for lots of different reasons and we're very grateful that they do," he said.

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