Every Christmas the problem of homelessness gets big press, and with steadily rising number of people out of home and sleeping rough it is only right that this issue gets some serious coverage. However I have worked in a variety of homeless services in Dublin and I know that when the Christmas spotlight fades the problem doesn’t.
Homelessness is a complex and multifaceted issue and there is no quick one size solution. However there is one fundamental thing needed – homes. Homes alone won’t solve the problem, but the failure to adequately provide social and affordable housing across Dublin City is contributing to the current crisis. The latest Homeless Framework Action Plan recently debated by Councillors rightly aims to follow a housing first approach, this is hardly possible without the houses.
We have failed to adequately plan social housing, we have failed to provide the housing required by assessment of housing need, and when we look at traveller accommodation that failure is even more significant.
What we have been left with is privatized social housing in the form of Rent Allowance, a subsidy for landlords that in the current context of Celtic Tiger buy to let mortgages setting rent prices and the cuts to the levels of support for tenants, provides very little.
Again, social and affordable housing is a multifaceted issue with many aspects to consider, but failing to build even homes as your housing needs assessments suggest is not only bad planning but a recipe for homelessness. While it is positive to see Councillors trying to protect funding for homeless services, where are the long term solutions? Where is the focus on social housing as a service and a basic right?