Belfast Telegraph

Taoiseach warns over number of homeless families

The number of families falling into homelessness across the country is continuing to rise, the Taoiseach has warned.

Leo Varadkar admitted he was unable to say when real progress would be made to bring the homeless levels down as there are many reasons why families find themselves without a home.

He insisted however that the numbers exiting homelessness will increase in 2018.

Earlier this year, former housing minister Simon Coveney said Ireland would end reliance on hotels and B&Bs for long-term accommodation for homeless families by July.

However, many are still using the lodgings.

The Taoiseach pointed out that the rollout of Family Hubs - which offer accommodation that includes cooking facilities, play facilities, as well as on-site "wraparound" supports such as homework clubs - has led to a decrease in those living in commercial hotels and B&Bs.

But he admitted the hubs should only be a temporary measure.

"There are fewer people now in the B&Bs and hotels. That's because of the development of the Family Hubs, which are very good accommodation.

"But nobody should be stuck there for too long.

"I think it's fine to be there for a matter of weeks or months while you're waiting on a permanent housing solution.

"I wouldn't like to see people stuck there for prolonged periods of time," he said.

The Fine Gael leader added that while the number of homeless families in Dublin has "kind of levelled off", the problem is still increasing in the rest of the country.

"I'd be loath to tell you when it's going to fall because there's so many different factors involved," he admitted.

Referring to a recent report that the biggest single cause of homelessness is family breakdown, Mr Varadkar added: "How can I predict how many families are going to break down next year?

"There are lots of different reasons why families become homeless ... It's difficult to know how many people will become homeless in 2018."

He insisted: "What we do know is we're taking more people out of homelessness all the time and the numbers we will take out of homelessness, the number of exits from homelessness, will certainly increase next year."

The Taoiseach also said he anticipated a "significant decrease" in the number of people sleeping rough due to additional emergency accommodation put in place in recent weeks and additional emergency accommodation expected next year.

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