Some thoughts on the homeless crisis by Dermot Hayes, the well-known disability activist and a member of Clare County Council’s Social Development SPC where he represents the social inclusion sector.
Readers have you ever been homeless for one night – or maybe you are homeless no?. If you are you have my deepest sympathy.
CSO figures indicate that in last year’s census, a total of 183,000 vacant residential properties were identified across the State, some 30,000 of which were in Dublin. There are over five thousand vacant dwellings in County Clare alone.
Focus Ireland has indicated that there were 8,270 people homeless in the week of August 21-27 2017 across Ireland. This figure includes adults and children with their families, 3,000 thousand were children.
In Limerick recently a new baby was born to a homeless family. Shock, horror and anger do not begin to describe how any of these individuals must feel. For me, homelessness would be my worst possible nightmare.
I have been a renter all my adult life. Thankfully, in the last twenty years, I have lived in a local authority house and stabilised my situation. Prior to this, I lived in over 15 different rented accommodations. A few landlords were difficult and accommodation standards were poor.
Currently in the estate where I live there are two houses of quality accommodation which are lying empty. This is an example of the number of houses that are boarded up.
Councillors all over the country have been relatively inactive in this housing crisis. I sit on Clare County Council’s Special Policy Committee on Housing as a community representative with a number of councillors.
During my time, I have witnessed missed opportunities by councillors to resolve the housing crisis in Clare. Four years ago the homeless figure in Clare was 14 people. By November 2017 it was 47.
Unscrupulous landlords, heavy-handed bankers, intimidating lawyers and loss of adequate pay are some of the reasons contributing to homelessness.
This government’s Rebuilding Ireland strategy reveals new statistics. The data, from housing policy analyst Mel Reynolds, shows the 31 local authorities own about 700 sites, or 1,211 hectares of land, which is undeveloped and zoned for residential development.
I believe that some 37,950 dwellings could be built on this land that is lying idle. Surely it is time for councillors to roll up their sleeves.