Belfast Telegraph

Charity warns worst is to come

A homeless charity warned the worst is yet to come as the recession takes hold of desperate homeowners struggling to pay basic bills.

As the Government fails to meets its own target to end long-term homelessness by the end of 2010, Depaul Ireland revealed the recently out of work are among the latest victims forced to sleep rough.

Kerry Anthony, chief executive of the cross-border charity, pleaded with the Irish Government and housing agencies to set a new date to create 1,200 new units of affordable accommodation to take people out of hostels and B&Bs.

An estimated 5,000 people, including families, are homeless in the Republic, with 70 sleeping rough.

Ms Anthony said those who recently fell on hard times, and have never experienced homelessness, are among the people now knocking on its door.

"I've been saying for some time now that I don't think we really understand the full impact the recession is going to have on homelessness," she said. "The figures haven't fluctuated much to date, but we know there are an awful lot of people defaulting on their mortgage repayments, we know about 90,000 people are defaulting on electric payments and 23,000 on their gas payments."

She said the huge rise in numbers contacting the Money Advice and Budgeting Services (MABS) and St Vincent de Paul shows people are really starting to suffer. "All the indicators are saying there is going to be an increase, we haven't felt this in its full force yet," she added.

Depaul Ireland, which accepts donations via www.depaulireland.org, gives a bed to more than 300 homeless people in Dublin and Northern Ireland every night. Women with children are more likely to get a permanent home.

As a "wet service" it is one of the few places where the most marginalised and vulnerable, street drinkers and drug addicts, will find a bed.

Housing Minister Michael Finneran said it is his intention to prioritise the most vulnerable, disadvantaged households, such as homeless people and people with disabilities, next year. "Although it is regrettable that we haven't reached our target of ending long-term homelessness for this year, the commitment is as strong as ever and I will ensure it is pursued into 2011," he said.

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