Last night’s RTÉ investigates programme put a spotlight on a homelessness crisis that has persisted for far too long, according to Social Democrats Housing spokesperson Cian O’Callaghan TD.

Calling on the Government to commit to ending homelessness, Deputy O’Callaghan said:

“Last night’s RTÉ investigates programme exposed a homeless support system that is badly broken. We need urgent and radical reform. We cannot tolerate a situation where people are sleeping rough because they have been denied access to emergency accommodation. We have to eliminate homelessness in Ireland.

“I have been raising the issue around the use of the local connection rule with the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister for Housing since last November. They repeatedly sought to downplay, dismiss or deny that people were being turned away from emergency accommodation while beds lay empty. Last night’s programme categorically proves that they were wrong.

“The Government is clearly out of touch on this issue. The comments from the Minister for Housing that no-one should be denied emergency accommodation fall far short of what is needed – he must directly instruct local authorities to stop turning homeless people away.

“I have deep concerns about the conditions in private homeless hostels. There is a catalogue of failures. Some hostels have inhumane rules that state ‘Guests are not allowed to stop for a chat..’. Others are excluding people for minor infringements of unfair rules.

“Staff in some homeless hostels lack even basic training. In other cases, they are not even Garda vetted. It is not clear that these private providers are subject to the national quality standards for homeless services. Inspection reports are never published.

“The increased use of for-profit, private accommodation providers, without support services, is deeply problematic. The cost of this model of service provision is also concerning. Professor Eoin Sullivan of Trinity College has estimated that it costs €35,000-€40,000 per person to keep someone in emergency accommodation. This is shocking given the low standards. Much better value for money and much better outcomes can be achieved by providing someone with a long-term secure home of their own.

“For every day that it continues, the homelessness crisis is destroying lives. Addiction issues can start or deepen after someone becomes homeless. Life expectancy falls. Mental health issues are compounded. It does not have to be like this.

“Homelessness isn’t inevitable. It is a direct result of the decisions made by the Government. The solution to the crisis is clear – build social and affordable homes for those that need them. Re-direct the resources that are put into private providers of emergency hostels into long-term secure accommodation for people who have become homeless. Provide supports where they are needed.

“All that is required is the political will and ambition on the part of Government. I’m calling on the Government to begin by making a clear commitment to eliminate homelessness in Ireland.”

January 19, 2021

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