Belfast Telegraph

Warning over dramatic increase in homelessness

Seventy families are becoming homeless every month, campaigners have warned as they blamed Government decisions for worsening the crisis.

Focus Ireland said last year it helped more than 11,500 people who had either lost or were risk of losing their home, compared to 10,000 in 2013 and 8,000 in 2012.

It said it has seen a 44% increase in requests for help in the last three years.

And the charity's chief executive, Ashley Balbirnie, warned the staggering demand for homeless services deepened this year as it helped 8,000 people in the first six months.

"What is clear is that there are some actions that could be taken very quickly to cut the rising numbers becoming homeless every day," he said.

Focus Ireland blamed cuts to rent supplements for exacerbating the homeless crisis and it called for the welfare to be boosted to match market realities and tax reform for residential landlords to be addressed in the budget to bring stability.

The charity called for 7,000 social houses to be built every year over the next five years.

Sister Stanislaus Kennedy, who founded Focus Ireland 30 years ago this month, said: "The Government must now accept that some of its policy decisions are directly forcing people into homelessness.

"In 2012 we warned that many families were at a tipping point between home and homelessness as rent supplement payments were not matching rising rents."

Sr Stan said that three years ago eight families a month were becoming homeless - a figure that has grown nine fold since then.

She said: "The fact is that the Government could, with the stroke of a pen, take action to prevent many families becoming homeless this very month by increasing the rent supplement.

"What is often forgotten is that these families do not just appear out of thin air into homelessness. They are all in homes now as I speak, but yet without action at least 70 more families will lose their homes this month and be homeless."

Focus Ireland helped 360 families to secure a home last year, or prevented them from losing one.

Focus Ireland also cautioned about the use of modular housing as a quick response to the rising homeless figures. The quality prefabricated units put on show by the Government earlier in the week.

It said care should be taken over the location of sites for the short-term accommodation.


From Belfast Telegraph