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April 13, 2016, 8:59 p.m.
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The number of people accessing emergency shelters across the State was up by almost 50 per cent in February, compared to the same month last year, according to the latest figures on homelessness.
The figures, from the Department of the Environment, show there were 5,881 people in emergency accommodation in February, which represents a year-on-year increase of 49 per cent. Among them were 1,881 children, which represents an increase of 101 per cent.
Simon Communities of Ireland spokeswoman Niamh Randall said the figures were shocking and demonstrate that existing measures to tackle homelessness are failing.
“We are now waiting over a month for a government to be formed to hopefully provide some leadership on this crisis,” she said.
“A crisis whereby 5,881 people are trapped in emergency accommodation, are living in hostels, hotels and B&Bs; trying to get their children to school, to get homework done and meals cooked, all in one small room.
“As a national organisation at the frontline of the housing and homeless crisis, it is deeply disturbing to see the number of people turning to us for help in every community, month after month. It is unacceptable to expect people to put their lives and futures on hold.”
Pat Doyle, chief executive of the Peter McVerry Trust, said “multiple government departments” need to be part of the solution to the crisis.
“It makes little sense for the Department of the Environment to hold standalone forums, when finance, social protection, health, justice, children and youth affairs, and public expenditure all have a role to play.
“The Taoiseach needs to convene a high level forum immediately, in order to get all the relevant departments working together to tackle homelessness.”
Mr Doyle said he would also like to see genuine commitment from TDs to introduce sweeping reforms to the housing system.
“The danger we now face is that politicians, in their rush to be seen to act, respond by introducing measures to make building houses more profitable,” he said.
“Instead, we need to see action on land management, planning and building standards, reform of the rental market, action on mortgage arrears and support for approved housing bodies.”