15 September 2005 Edition

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Protest rally over Dublin homeless deaths

The recent tragic deaths of three homeless people in Dublin has highlighted the 26-County Government's failure in relation to the issue of homelessness and housing provision.

People are dying needlessly on the streets of the capital and elsewhere due to the acute lack of housing and services to those in need. In response to these recent deaths Street Seen, an Irish anti-poverty paper, has called on people to protest in Dublin City centre on Saturday, 17 September to demand action.

Despite the much vaunted 'Celtic Tiger' economy the numbers of people sleeping rough in Dublin City centre are at record high levels, according to a new survey conducted by homeless organisations.

Two hundred and thirty seven people sleep rough in Dublin on any given night. These people are vulnerable to changes in the weather, violence, abuse and sexual exploitation. The survey co-ordinated by the Homeless Agency was carried out by Focus Ireland, Dublin Simon Community, Merchant's Quay Ireland along with Dublin City Council and other homeless services

It was only with the introduction of the Housing Act in 1988 that any kind of national assessments of homelessness by Local Authorities were carried out. Although the early assessments were deeply flawed the most recent one (2002) found that a record 5,581 people were homeless throughout the state (according to the Housing Act definition). The majority of these were in Dublin. The Homeless Agency also co-ordinated a separate assessment for Dublin. This counted 2,920 homeless people in Dublin in 2002. There are currently 48,413 households on the housing waiting lists nationally and 5,581 people who are homeless. The vast majority of these live in emergency hostels and Bed and Breakfast accommodation on a night-by-night basis

Not only have the number of homeless households increased substantially over the years but the crisis in social and public housing has also deepened. The slow-down in the construction of social housing by the local authorities in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the rise in the cost of renting private accommodation and the increasing cost of purchasing a property have lead to an increased demand for social housing.

Housing charity Threshold recently called on the government to prevent the creation of modern-day slums by radically improving living conditions in private rental accommodation. Threshold in its 2004 Annual Report, showed the number of calls from people living in unfit accommodation had risen by more than a third last year. Conditions people were reporting included problems with hot and cold running water, mould growing on walls, vermin infestations and living in windowless rooms. Threshold claimed local authorities were failing in their duty to inspect privately-rented accommodation, with only 7,232 of an estimated 150,000 dwellings checked by inspectors. According to the report, almost 30% of inspected properties were found to be falling below minimum standards.

Homelessness means more than just sleeping rough. Those living in a hostel or bed and breakfast or staying temporarily with friends because they have nowhere else to go, are homeless.

Street Seen is calling on all those individuals, groups and organisations who wish to see the end of avoidable deaths on Irish Streets and homelessness to support this demonstration as a matter of urgency.

People attending the rally are asked to bring along any spare sleeping bags, blankets and non-perishable foodstuffs for distribution to those in need by focus out reach teams.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1