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2 February 2014 Edition

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Homeless numbers an indictment of governments’ inaction

This is funded by the European United Left/ Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL)

• Martina helps with the distribution of items collected through her Christmas Homeless Appeal

The economic and financial crisis and implementation of austerity measures, rising unemployment, continued high rents and mortgage repayments are leading to an increase in repossessions and homelessness

THE RIGHT to adequate housing is fundamental and an obligation on government to ensure there is sufficient housing to meet the needs of its citizens.

The right of access to housing and to housing assistance is recognised in Article 34 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, Articles 30 and 31 of the revised European Social Charter adopted by the Council of Europe, and Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights.

Yet this recognition of the right of access to housing in EU charters and articles, while welcome, are meaningless when austerity monetary policy in member states, designed by unelected bureaucrats in Europe and imposed by the Troika exacerbates the social and economic crisis being experienced by countries with more fragile economies, creating endemic population displacement and homelessness.

The economic and financial crisis and implementation of austerity measures, rising unemployment, continued high rents and mortgage repayments are leading to an increase in repossessions and homelessness. The social and family profiles of people needing social housing have changed dramatically with increased demand for such housing.

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As part of the eradicating homelessness strategy, governments should carry out a full audit of existing vacant properties and, where possible, utilising or adapting these buildings to ensure availability of housing for all homeless people.

There should be an immediate moratorium on home evictions of people who find themselves prisoners of circumstances created by the collapse of the economy for which they bear no responsibility. Financial institutions (who are responsible for many of the economic difficulties that citizens now find themselves in) should not be allowed to repossess family homes, dispose of them at fire sale price and then continue to pursue the householder for the difference in the outstanding mortgage.

Governments have squandered billions of taxpayers’ money bailing out banks and paying off international bond-holders and speculators. Surely it is not beyond their collective imaginations to identify measures to find the comparatively lesser amount of finance that would be required to resolve the problems of mortgage distress and stem the increase in homelessness as a first step to eradicating it.

I will continue to lobby support for action on homelessness both at home and at European level.

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