Belfast Telegraph

Date to end long-term homelessness

A new date of 2016 has been set by the Government to end long-term homelessness.

The revised target, the second in the last five years, will see agencies prioritise access to long-term, stable housing as early as possible.

Jan O'Sullivan, junior minister for housing, said Government was focusing on solutions rather than reacting to the problem by using expensive emergency accommodation.

"Homelessness is an affront to every value that we assign to the concept of citizenship. In a real republic there is an onus on us all to ensure that all citizens have a place they can call home," she said. "Achieving this important goal in the year that marks the centenary of the 1916 Rising is something I would urge everyone to support."

The first Government target for ending long-term homelessness in 2010 was set back in 2008. Some 3,808 people were recorded homeless in Ireland in the last census while the Dublin Region Homeless Executive rough sleeping count found at least 73 on the streets on one night in spring 2012.

The new Government homelessness strategy will end the so-called staircase model for tackling homelessness which put people in emergency accommodation first in the hope of eventually securing an appropriate home for them.

Niamh Randall, Simon Community spokeswoman, said access to appropriate housing with supports is the key to success. "This commitment makes clear that even in this era of austerity it remains absolutely unacceptable that people should be left homeless for month after month and year after year," she said.

"Our hope is that this ambitious goal will reignite the National Homeless Strategy; re-energise all key players involved in its delivery and give renewed hope to people experiencing homelessness in Ireland today. But hope alone is not enough. We now need a detailed roadmap setting out clear milestones".

Bob Jordan, director of housing charity Threshold, said the new policy is a departure for government. "Traditionally, the Government's focus has been on reacting to homelessness, rather than solving or preventing," he said. Mr Jordan added: "This is an ambitious goal but, if this new policy is effectively implemented, we believe it can be achieved. Previous governments failed to reach similarly ambitious targets, but we believe that was because of their focus on reacting to homelessness rather than preventing it."

The Peter McVerry Trust has also given its backing to the housing-led approach in the strategy. Pat Doyle, chief executive of the trust, said: "We also support the emphasis on a strong prevention strategy to decrease the number of people experiencing homelessness for the first time. At present we have around eight people a day presenting as homeless in Dublin alone." Mr Doyle also said the trust has raised with the minister the need to ensure good co-operation between the Department of the Environment and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in the area of homelessness. "It is not acceptable that young homeless people end up in adult services once they turn 18 and this needs to be addressed by both departments," he said.


From Belfast Telegraph