Fianna Fáil TD for Kildare North Frank O’Rourke has called on the Housing Minister to review the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Scheme to ensure that the requirement for a rental deposit does not prevent homeless people from accessing accommodation.

Deputy O’Rourke raised the issue in the Dáil with Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy earlier today. He pointed out that most landlords require people on the Housing Assistance Payment to pay up to one months rent and deposit prior to taking out a lease.

Deputy O’Rourke said, “The requirement for homeless people to make a substantial upfront payment for a deposit is prohibitive and goes against the purpose of the HAP Scheme. Homeless people do not have access to the finance needed to pay these deposits, which often can amount to €1,000 or more. The end result is that many homeless people are forced to remain without adequate accommodation.

“I raised this issue in the Dáil with the Housing Minister and highlighted the need for additional measures to be put in place to ensure this barrier to accessing accommodation is removed. Homeless people need assistance by the Government and Local Authorities to ensure that they can access adequate accommodation.

“Minister Murphy confirmed to me that a new Place Finder unit will be established by Kildare County Council to assist homeless people in meeting these rental deposit requirements. I have been assured that this service will become operational from next Monday, June 25th. The council needs to ensure that homeless people are aware that this assistance is available when looking for accommodation under the HAP Scheme.

“I have also raised concerns surrounding the Department of Housing’s definition of homelessness. I am dealing with families and individuals who sleep on different couches every night. They are couch-surfing and do not have a place they can call home but are still being told that they are not regarded as homeless because there is a roof over their head. I’m concerned that these people will remain without assistance as they are technically not classed as homeless.

“The Minister did agree that there is ambiguity surrounding the definition of homelessness and the situation differs from county to county. This simply isn’t acceptable and the Government needs to get its act together to ensure that all homeless people get the assistance they need to find adequate accommodation.”