Over a thousand people have attended a demonstration to demand action on the homelessness crisis on the first anniversary of Jonathan Corrie, a Carlow man who died at this time last year on steps near the Dublin parliament.
Campaigner Fr Peter McVerry told the crowd the government must declare a homelessness emergency as the situation had sharply deteriorated. Some 40 families were being made homeless each month this time last year, but now the average is 73 a month, he said.
“Homeless families will end up having to sleep in Garda [police] stations and hospital emergency departments for Christmas,” Fr McVerry said.
The demonstration was organised by the National Homeless and Housing Coalition. It began outside the GPO on O’Connell Street, and participants marched across the city centre to Leinster House. Barricades blocked demonstrators from marching up Kildare Street, which resulted in some scuffles between Gardai and those marching.
Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly has promised 500 prefabricated units to temporarily accommodate homeless families, a move criticised as short-term, expensive and insufficient.
Pat Green, of the Simon Community, said these were not a long-term solution to housing the homeless. He said the State was in a deep emergency.
He also criticised government measures to address homelessness, including an attempted pause on rent increases, as insufficient.
“The reaction from government is too little, too late and it is not enough,” said Mr Green.
Housing campaigners have reported that the new legislation has actually made the situation worse, as landlords pre-empted the new requirement with sharp rent increases.
“We need far, far more radical action than is being taken at the moment,” Mr Green said.
The ‘Living Rent’ campaign has called for rents to be capped at a reasonable rate of return on the estimated value of the property.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams told the Dail there been lots of assurances from the government that matters would improve. But since then the housing crisis had escalated, with “chaos heaped upon chaos”. His party has called for rent increases to be index linked to the Consumer Price Index.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted there would be no rough sleepers on the streets of Dublin this Christmas, claiming that a range of measures would deal with the issue.
He said “some people wanted to be on the streets” and claimed the new rent measures would assist the homeless by “providing stability in their circumstances”.
But evidence of a get-tough approach to those at the bottom of the property ladder was visible in Dublin this week morning when Gardai were seen to order a number of homeless families to simply ‘move on’.