Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein compiles dossier of people’s experiences of homeless crisis

Party leader Mary Lou McDonald said she was flooded with responses after posting a call for people’s experiences on her social media channels.

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald (Brian Lawless/PA)
Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald (Brian Lawless/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

Sinn Fein said it has compiled a dossier of “heartbreak”, documenting the human experience of the housing crisis to force the Government into action.

The document, titled In Their Words – The Humans of the Housing Crisis, features testimony from a range of people across Ireland during the worst homeless crisis in the history of the state.

Party leader Mary Lou McDonald said she posted the call for people’s experiences on her own social media channels after embattled Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy survived his second vote of no confidence last week, and was flooded with responses.

The report itself contains both long and short written submissions in a text bubble-style format.

Testimony from those living in family hubs details young children witnessing violence in corridors, staff members walking into rooms unannounced and when tenants are not home, constant sickness exacerbated by lack of space, and lack of access to basic essentials such as washing machines.

Mothers and fathers detail how their children are sick with asthma and are breathing in damp in homes not suitable for children, but lack of other options keeps them in the property.

Mental health is heavily mentioned throughout the document, with many detailing counselling, use of antidepressants, anxiety and “mentally decaying” in emergency accommodation.

One submission details three students living in a landlord’s garden shed and another student paying near to 10,000 euro for nine months’ private accommodation.

A retired soldier told Ms McDonald how he lives with five adults and his grandson in his home, while a serving soldier says he was forced into emergency accommodation as his family would have “no hope of getting anywhere” if he was around.

Many detail overcrowding in small houses, and studio flats with exorbitant rents, with one submission stating that they lived in a three-bedroom apartment, rented with eight other people.

Ms McDonald said she was angry when Fianna Fail abstained on last week’s motion against Mr Murphy, and felt compelled to take action.

“When the no confidence vote in Eoghan Murphy… I put out a call on my social media accounts, I said we’re going to have to do something about this, I asked people for their housing stories,” she said.

“Nothing could’ve prepared me for the avalanche of misery posted to my social media accounts and I made the commitment that I in turn would bring their stories to the Government.

“This dossier is a catalogue of heartbreak and misery, anxiety and trauma, real people and real families, and their experiences of homeless accommodation, rental, hotels, people living in tiny studios attracting rip-off rents.

“People desperately looking for acknowledgement and answers.

“It’s very clear the Government does not listen to Sinn Fein, so I’m challenging them to listen to the lived experiences of families.

“They’ve looked away, and censored out the experiences of regular people, but we’re not letting them get away with that one second longer.

“We will continue to publish the human stories of the housing crisis – this can’t continue.

“It doesn’t have to be this way, but what has been lacking is political will, these are human stories, and the Government needs to face up and come back with credible actions and answers.

“We have to draw lines now.”

Responding to the publication of Sinn Fein’s housing document, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “I care a lot more about these issues than you do. I care deeply about the housing crisis, and the problems that we face in our health service, and that’s why I’ve taken on the mantle of leadership.

“That’s why I’ve been willing to serve in government, and that’s why my party and our colleagues are willing to serve in government and your party is different.

“You walked out of government in Northern Ireland three years ago. And now we see an appalling health crisis unfolding in Northern Ireland and we also see a homelessness crisis in Northern Ireland.”

An emergency measure to freeze rents across Ireland was brought to the Dail on Tuesday by Sinn Fein.

Housing spokesman Eoin O Broin urged support for the Rent Freeze (Fair Rent) Bill 2019, which would provide a refundable tax credit for all renters and a three-year rent freeze, with a review at its conclusion.

The Government has balked at the idea, saying it is “unconstitutional” and would drive out landlords and investors.

PA

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