Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Housing Barry Cowen TD has criticised the Government for its handling of the homeless crisis and has called on Minister Eoghan Murphy to distance himself from comments made by the outgoing head of the Housing Agency, Conor Skehan.
Deputy Cowen made the comments after Mr Skehan stated that families living in emergency accommodation are “gaming the system” for their own advantage.
Deputy Cowen said, “I’m shocked by the crude comments made by the outgoing chair of the Housing Agency. No family should have to live in a hotel as is the case for those relying on emergency accommodation. It’s astounding that the outgoing chair of the Housing Agency believes that people are willingly entering emergency accommodation. It suggests that the Government simply doesn’t understand the true extent of the homeless crisis.
“In recent months we have seen a co-ordinated effort by the Government to normalise homelessness in this country. Last November the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar claimed that the homeless rate in Ireland wasn’t high despite the fact that there are a record number of people living in emergency accommodation. He also failed to recognise that there are thousands of people across Ireland who are just one rent increase away from losing their home.
“In 2014 Peter McVerry called the shortage of housing a national crisis. He has many years of experience working within our homeless services and understands the true extent of the crisis that we are in the midst of. However since then we have seen a complete failure by Government to address this crisis. Four Ministers have taken up the challenge and each of them has failed to deliver.
“We need to see delivery by Government now on the housing and homeless crisis. It would be more in their line to supply the rapid build homes that they promised over three years ago instead of attacking those living in emergency accommodation. Less than a quarter of these rapid build homes have been delivered to date, yet in the same period of time we have seen the number of families living in emergency accommodation rise from 331 to 1,530.
“The homeless crisis is wrecking people’s lives. There are children living in hotel rooms for over a year or more. Experts have warned that such an environment is causing significant damage to the livelihoods of these children. However despite this we have seen a complete failure by the Government to provide much needed housing to tackle this crisis. Patience with this Government’s housing plan is wearing thin,” concluded Deputy Cowen.