26-County State fails once again to deliver for the homeless

As the 26-County administration in Dublin sets out its yearly budget, all indications are that they will once again fail to adequately deal with the thousands of people living in homelessness; be it on the streets, in substandard accommodation or on waiting lists.

Reporting substandard accommodation has resulted in eviction in many cases. Hostels can be, and have been, dangerous places due to drug-taking, violence and theft, so for these reasons people choose to stay in a tent rather than put themselves at risk.

Several homeless people were evicted during the night prior to the announcement of the budget from Ionad Heuston in Dublin, and several members of the group Revolutionary Republican League who led the occupation, were arrested and brought before the courts.

It is clear that those suffering homelessness are nowhere on the list of priorities with any of the political parties, including those in opposition who criticise those in power for not doing enough.

For far too long now, through several administrations, little or nothing has been done to bring about an end to this issue. Lack of funds has long been used as an excuse for the State not involving itself in any meaningful housing projects. It would rather leave it to private companies to do the build and then lease it back from them. The net effect of this is that billions in tax-payers’ money is going into the private sector through a variety of funds.

While the State claims to have no available funds for building projects it has managed to continually find billions for other projects and have overspent by billions. We need only look to the Children’s Hospital (which is already in excess of €200 million over-estimate) and Rural Broadband. While both projects are necessary, the latter has billions of our tax euros poured into it, only for the State to have no ownership.

If the State was really interested in trying to solve the issue of homelessness, it would immediately start a programme of refurbishment of the properties they already own. Houses, flats and apartments are vacant in almost every town and city. Some, as in Dominick Street in the centre of Dublin, where several blocks of flats are half occupied and half boarded up, have been left in this manner for around a decade. All while families are existing in hubs, hostels, B&Bs and other substandard accommodation. It is wholly detrimental to families to have to spend years in such accommodation, with little security or stability.

It is the case that children could have been born to families in the flats that have remained empty, gone through the whole of primary education and even started secondary education in the years that these blocks of flats have been empty. This scenario is replicated across the state.

Sinn Féin Poblachtach calls for an immediate house-building plan and for the upgrading of the existing housing stock that has been deliberately kept empty.