There are now more than 1,500 children living with their families in unsuitable emergency accommodation, including hotels and B&Bs. SVP members visiting these families see the stress and strain they are under, and the negative effect this is having on their children’s lives. The package of measures for the private rented sector which was recently announced and which aims to protect low income households from rapidly increasing rents, as well as encouraging landlords to accept tenants in receipt of social housing supports, while welcome, does not go far enough.
14 organisations including SVP recently came together to draw public attention to this ongoing scandal of child homelessness. The organisations specialise in a range of areas including children’s rights, housing and homelessness, mental health, children in care, child protection and social justice. In spite of the fact that our organisations focus on different areas, we share a common message – that urgent action is needed by An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, to tackle the immediate crisis facing homeless children; and that measures must be put in place now to prevent more families becoming homeless in the future. Our open letter to An Taoiseach was carried in the Irish Examiner on Monday 23rd November 2015 and can be viewed here.
Families are becoming homeless every month as a direct result of increases in rents. Rent supplement levels do not reflect the rents being asked of tenants, and those in work on low incomes who are living in the private rented sector receive no support towards meeting their housing costs. There is a shortage of rental accommodation, particularly in urban and commuter areas which is driving up costs and pushing families into homelessness. The private rented sector as it currently operates cannot meet the needs of individuals and families who struggle to afford their housing costs.
An ambitious programme of reform of the private rented sector and the delivery of social housing are the only solutions to this housing crisis.
Access to social housing can transform lives. At its best it means security, affordability, sustainable communities and access to employment. On the other hand it is costing €1.6 million per month in Dublin alone to accommodate families in hotels. The cost for a generation of children is likely to be even higher. Children who experience homelessness are more likely to have episodes of homelessness as adults, perpetuating the cycle of disadvantage into the future. Homeless children are travelling long distances to school and often do not have anywhere safe and secure to play or do their homework.
What is the future for these children? Can we afford not to invest in social housing?