We believe Covid-19 can be a turning point in the fight against homelessness

Irish Sunday Mirror|June 28, 2020

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We believe Covid-19 can be a turning point in the fight against homelessness
Focus Ireland chief urges renewed commitment
PAT DENNIGAN

As the new Government looks out at our Covid-impacted economy and traumatised society, it may be tempted to think there is at least one area where things are under control – after all, homelessness fell for the last few months and is at a three-year low.

If so, they will be making a big mistake – the same mistake that governments have been making for well over a decade.

That is, underestimating the scale of the problem we face in providing all our people with an affordable, secure place which they can call home.

Of course, the recent fall in homelessness is welcome.

Working with others, Focus Ireland supported over 100 households across the country to secure a home in April alone.

So, we know what worked – and it is not the long-awaited proof that the outgoing Government “got it right”.

Homelessness is falling because of the rent freeze, the ban on evictions, the release of Airbnb properties into long-term housing and the driven collaboration across Government agencies and voluntary organisations.

The truth is that these are all policies that the Government resisted – and even insisted were “unconstitutional” – until the Covid-19 pandemic forced a change of plan.

But, welcome as they are, rent freezes and eviction bans only create breathing room.

When they go the underlying problem will re-emerge and we risk being overwhelmed by a new surge of homelessness.

Our problem is that Ireland seems to have forgotten how to build homes that its people can afford to buy or rent.

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June 28, 2020